Palo Alto will pay $250,000 to settle its lawsuit with a Los Altos Hills resident who claimed he was unfairly arrested, subjected to excessive force and deprived of medical care by police officers after he suffered an epileptic seizure during a traffic stop in August 2013.
The City Council agreed during a closed session on Tuesday night to settle the suit from Tyler Harney for $250,000, according to City Attorney Molly Stump.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in July 2014 and amended in February 2015, stems from an incident that occurred after a traffic stop on Aug. 3, 2013. According to the suit, Harney was a passenger in a car that was pulled over around noon on that day. The suit claims at least two officers pushed Harney against a squad car, apparently in route to handcuffing and arresting him.
Harney then began "convulsing uncontrollably as a result of a seizure disorder," the suit states. Instead of providing medical care, the suit states, officers forced him to the ground and one officer put his knee "forcefully against (Harney's) back and neck" while another "pulled and twisted back on (his) left arm." The suit alleges that an officer injured Harney's arm and shoulder.
Harney was eventually taken to Stanford Hospital, where doctors operated on his injured arm and shoulder, the suit states. He was kept in "unnecessarily tight" shackles while at the hospital, which he claimed caused him "additional and unreasonable pain." Two days after the operation, Harney was taken to the Santa Clara County Jail, from where he was released the following day, the suit states. During the incarceration, the suit claims, the Department of Corrections exhibited "deliberate indifference" to his medical needs, failed to provide proper medication and failed to ensure that the recently operated shoulder was kept properly immobilized and protected.
In addition to suing the city and the Palo Alto Police Department, Harney's complaint also lists as the defendants Police Chief Dennis Burns and the officers who he said participated in the stop: Officer Thomas DeStefano, Sgt. Alex Afanasiev, Sgt. Con Maloney and Officers Dave Pecoraro and David Fegueroa. The suit also targets the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, county Sheriff Laurie Smith and county Department of Corrections Chief John Hirokawa.
The city has thus far denied all allegations in the suit, other than that Harney was indeed traveling in a vehicle stopped by police, that DeStefano was present at the scene and that Harney was handcuffed and arrested by members of the police department. The city's response asserted that all actions undertaken by Palo Alto's defendants in this case "were lawful and privileged, and undertaken in defense of self and/or defense of others."
The council's decision Tuesday night means that the suit will now be dismissed, Stump said. Settlement documents will be prepared next week, she said.