In DWI crash that left man with brain damage, state high court agrees BRPD not at fault | Courts

The Louisiana Supreme Court has agreed that Baton Rouge police were not responsible for a 2008 alcohol-related crash that left a man permanently brain-damaged and others injured.

An East Baton Rouge Parish jury reached that same conclusion in 2018, and a state appeals court earlier this year let the verdict stand.

Baton Rouge police aren’t to blame for a 2008 alcohol-related crash between a car and an 18-wheeler that occurred 30 minutes after officers st…

The wreck between a car and an 18-wheeler occurred 30 minutes after officers stopped the car’s driver, Jean Paul Palmer, for running a stop sign but did not arrest him for driving with a suspended license. The car also had an expired inspection sticker and only one working headlight. A baby was in the car with no car seat.

Palmer was issued traffic citations after the stop for an expired inspection sticker, driving with only one headlight and having no car seat available for the child.

About 15 minutes after police left the predawn traffic stop, Palmer ran another stop sign and collided with the truck at Florida Boulevard and O’Neal Lane. More than two hours after the crash, his blood-alcohol level registered at 0.21% — well beyond the 0.08% considered presumptive evidence of drunken driving in Louisiana for people 21 and older.

Those injured, which included the truck driver and several people in Palmer’s car, sought nearly $5 million from the city-parish when the case went to trial in 2018.

The plaintiffs argued that officers were negligent in letting Palmer go after seeing him run a stop sign and becoming aware of his suspended license and four outstanding misdemeanor warrants. They also claimed police acted negligently in merely warning Palmer against driving the car instead of remaining on scene to ensure his compliance.

A police officer testified Tuesday that he trusted a Baton Rouge man’s word that he wouldn’t get back behind the wheel after a pre-dawn traffi…

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Plaintiffs further alleged that police acted unreasonably in failing to ask Palmer if he had been drinking, failing to get close enough to smell his breath, failing to perform a field sobriety test, horizontal gaze test or look into his eyes, and failing to tow the car.

Police testified they had no reason to believe Palmer was intoxicated when they stopped him at 2 a.m. on July 10, 2008, in the Melrose East area.

In its May ruling, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal said the jury listened to and observed all of the fact witnesses and expert witnesses, weighed the evidence, made credibility determinations and viewed the video of the traffic stop in whole and in part numerous times throughout the trial.

A jury rightly concluded that Baton Rouge police weren’t responsible for an alcohol-related crash that left a man permanently brain-damaged an…

“In this unfortunate case, we are unable to replace our opinion with the opinion of the jury and are constrained to rely upon the jury’s view of the conflicting testimony and evidence,” Circuit Judge Chris Hester wrote for the panel that included Judges Mitch Theriot and Beth Wolfe.

The state Supreme Court last Friday rejected the plaintiffs’ appeals without issuing written reasons.

City-parish attorneys argued at trial that Palmer was 100% at fault for the crash. The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued that Palmer’s arrest would have prevented the crash.

Palmer was 29 at the time of the wreck and had a prior DWI conviction.

He pleaded no contest in 2011 to four counts of first-degree vehicular negligent injury stemming from the 2008 crash and was sentenced to five years in prison, with all but two years suspended, to be followed by four years of probation. His probation was revoked in 2013 and he was sentenced to five years in prison. Court records show he tested positive for cocaine in 2012.

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