LOUIS — As a local police department finds itself in legal trouble in the wake
of allegations it failed to uphold Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
regulations, an attorney who handles similar cases said these issues arise more
often than anyone thinks.
Chef Pleban, a partner with Pleban & Petruska Law LLC, told the St. Louis Record that cases have
increased in the wake of the case in Ferguson.
you have a couple hundred bucks, anyone can file a lawsuit,” he said. “Whether
it has any merit is dependent on the facts and circumstances of the particular
to court records, a complaint was filed
by the legal guardian of a Gasconade County resident in the U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of Missouri against the county, two police departments and a
sheriff, citing alleged failure to uphold ADA regulations.
addition to the county, the Hermann Police Department, Rosebud Police Department,
Sheriff Randy Ephorst and John Doe are named as defendants.
The woman was allegedly coerced into a nonconsensual sexual relationship
with Deputy Sheriff Mart Rainey and his acquaintance Jonathan Pohlmann.
to court records, the plaintiffs maintain that the defendants bear
responsibility because they allegedly discriminated against her due to her
mental disability and failed to supervise the officer.
said he was not sure whether the department has disciplined the officer
involved in the case.
is a legal duty and responsibility to supervise subordinates particularly, in a
police setting,” he said. “If you fail to do that, you can be sued for negligent
retention and supervision of people who violate the civil rights of persons in
Pleban said that in
most cases, once a complaint is made an investigation is
conducted by an internal affairs division or a professional standards division.
will make a determination based upon that investigation on whether or not the
accused officer is somehow culpable of what they are accused of doing,” he
said. “If that is the case, particularly in a situation such as this, the
person is probably, for all intents and purposes, going to be terminated.”
county likely would not indemnify the individual. Pleban said that it makes
sense for the defendants to provide a united front in court.
to court records, the plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and judgment against the defendants, special damages, attorney's fees, costs and
further relief as the court deems just.
A jury trial is always preferable in a case involving a police entity, according
is very rare that you want to bench try these cases,” he said. “When you do
that in a criminal case, they are considered by the prosecution and the defense
as slow pleas of guilty.”
a fair trial is possible also could be called into question; however, it is not
likely to succeed in this instance.
the federal court, they are reluctant to change the venue because they draw
form such a wide area from St. Louis for people to serve on the jury," Pleban said.
jury trial also gives the defense a chance to file pretrial motions as well as
motions for summary judgment. The judge makes legal determinations, and the jury makes
the factual determinations.
are always better off with a jury making factual determinations,” Pleban said.
such as police departments and municipalities also are covered by various insurance
companies against lawsuits, which also can result in settlements before cases
go to trial.
“There are protections in these policies
against lawsuits,” Pleban said. “There are protections so that you can’t sue
the entity itself, but you can sue individuals.”
a result, most litigation is generally settled out of court. If not, Pleban
said the wheels of justice just might grind to a halt.
every case were to be tried, we may be backed up to the year 3010, I guess,” he
with any case, the evidence will ultimately determine whether a settlement is
reached before trial.
is going to depend on what their investigation shows,” Pleban said. “Not every
case is sustainable by the evidence.”
plaintiff in the case is represented by Adam M. Goffstein of Goffstein Law LLC
in St. Louis and Daniel J. Orlowsky of Orlowsky Law LLC in St. Louis.