Michigan Verdicts

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Officer negligently shot, killed 7-year-old girl, per lawsuit

Amount:

$8,250,000

Type:

Settlement

State:

Michigan

Venue:

Wayne County

Court:

Wayne County, Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

head; other-death; other-gunshot wound; other-loss of services; other-loss of consortium; other-conscious pain and suffering

Case Type:

Government – Police; Gross Negligence; Intentional Torts – Assault, Battery; Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Civil Rights – Police as Defendant; Intentional Torts – Assault and Battery, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Case Name:

Charles Jones, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Deceased, and Dominika Stanley v. Police Officer John Doe and Police Officer Robert Row,
No. 10-005660-NO

Date:

April 4, 2019

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Charles Jones (Male), 

Dominika Stanley (Female), 

Estate of Aiyana Stanley-Jones (Female, 7 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Geoffrey N. Fieger;
Fieger Law PC;
Southfield,
MI,
for
Charles Jones, Dominika Stanley, Estate of Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Plaintiff Expert(s):

W. Katsaris; Police Practices & Procedures; Tallahassee,
FL called by:
Geoffrey N. Fieger ■ Brett Sojda; ; Firearms/Ballistics; Northville,
MI called by:
Geoffrey N. Fieger ■ David Balash; ; Police Practices & Procedures; Canton,
MI called by:
Geoffrey N. Fieger ■ Daniel Spitz; M.D.; Pathology; Clinton Township,
MI called by:
Geoffrey N. Fieger ■ Michael Thomson; Ph.D.; Economics; Bloomfield Hills,
MI called by:
Geoffrey N. Fieger

Defendant(s):

Joseph Weekley

Defense Attorney(s):

Lawrence T. Garcia;
City of Detroit Law Department;
Detroit,
MI,
for
Joseph Weekley

Defendant Expert(s):

Carl Schmidt;
Pathology;
Detroit,
MI called by:
Lawrence T. Garcia ■ Steven Watt;
Police Practices & Procedures;
Ogden,
UT called by:
Lawrence T. Garcia

Facts:

On May 16, 2010, plaintiff’s decedent Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, was inside her Detroit home when she was shot in the head. She died a short time later. Aiyana’s parents, Charles Jones and Dominika Stanley, sued Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley on behalf of their daughter’s estate. The lawsuit claimed that Weekley’s gross negligence led to Aiyana’s death. The lawsuit also alleged assault and battery, willful and wanton misconduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The case was originally filed before Weekley was identified, so the initial defendants were named as officers John Doe and Robert Row. Charles Jones was later arrested and jailed, and a woman named Erica Moore subsequently took over as representative of Aiyana’s estate. On the date in question, Detroit police officers had arrived outside Stanley-Jones’ home looking for a man who lived in an adjoining unit of the same duplex. That man was a suspect in a recent murder. The officers were accompanied by television cameras from a reality show that documents officers as they attempt to solve homicides. Officers initially threw a stun grenade into the window of Aiyana’s home. Weekley then entered the home with a ballistic shield and sub-machine gun. The gun subsequently fired a shot that struck Aiyana in the head. Weekley was later charged in criminal court and tried twice in connection with Aiyana’s death, but both trials ended with hung juries. The estate’s counsel alleged that the stun grenade officers threw into the home prevented everyone inside from moving. Counsel thus maintained there was no reason for Weekley to fire a shot or have his finger on the trigger. Counsel further alleged that Weekley’s gun went off just seconds after the stun grenade did and that the stun grenade contributed to Weekley’s inability to properly maintain his weapon. Counsel additionally argued that Weekley should not have carried his gun and shield at the same time because the shield blocked his view of what was inside the home. Moreover, counsel claimed that Weekley had his finger on the trigger and fired a shot because he was amped up by the presence of the television cameras outside the home. Weekley admitted that his gun fired the shot that killed Aiyana, but maintained that the shooting was an accident. He denied having his finger on the trigger and insisted that the gun went off during a struggle with the child’s grandmother, who was inside the home at the time. The estate’s counsel denied this altercation took place.

Injury:

Aiyana was shot once in the head. Officers removed her from the home and put her into a police car. She was then taken to Ascension St. John Hospital in Detroit. She died there within an hour of the shooting. She left behind her parents, grandmother and seven siblings. The estate sought recovery of Aiyana’s loss of services and earning capacity and her family’s loss of society and companionship. The estate also sought damages for Aiyana’s conscious pain and suffering between the time she was shot and the time she died. The defense retained a pathology expert who was going to testify about the cause and manner of Aiyana’s death. He would have specifically disputed the estate’s claim for conscious pain and suffering.

Result:

The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. The defense agreed to pay the estate $8.25 million. The officer was insured through the city of Detroit.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Craig S. Strong

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents.