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$3 Million for Largest Police Brutality Case in Wisconsin History

On October 13, 2009, the City of Milwaukee Common Council approved a settlement with Hupy and Abraham client Curtis Harris in the amount of $3 million, which is believed to be the largest settlement in a police brutality case in State of Wisconsin history. The settlement was a culmination of a six-year legal battle on behalf of Mr. Harris, handled by Hupy and Abraham Attorneys Jason F. Abraham and Todd R. Korb.

VIDEO: The attorneys discuss the case on Insider Exclusive

The Case

In December 2003, following a domestic dispute, Mr. Harris was arrested on an outstanding traffic ticket. At the time of his arrest, he was thrown in the mud outside his sister's house by City of Milwaukee police officers before being transported to the 3rd District Police Station. Several witnesses confirmed that, at the time he was thrown in the mud, he was fully cooperative with the police.

At the station, Mr. Harris was taken to a booking room and processed by three police officers. During his booking, he was not placed in handcuffs, which demonstrated that the officers did not consider him to be a threat.

Kevin Clark, the arresting officer, instructed him to walk over to the desk and, as Mr. Harris moved forward, he shoved him from behind. When Mr. Harris looked over his shoulder during the shove, he was grabbed by the back of his shirt and thrown headfirst into a concrete wall. This course of events, which would render him a quadriplegic, was caught on video.

(According to Attorney Jason F. Abraham, "What happened after Mr. Harris was thrown into the wall was equally as disgusting as the actual act of throwing him into the wall.")

As Mr. Harris lay on the floor, moaning and telling the officers that he thought he was paralyzed, Officer Clark stood over him and shouted obscenities at him. The officers laughed at him and told him he should win an Academy Award. Mr. Harris was further ridiculed by being called various obscenities and referred to as a part of the female anatomy.

When Mr. Harris did not get up off the floor as instructed, the officers picked him up and placed him in a chair; he fell out of the chair and back onto the floor.

Later, Officer Clark was fired by the Milwaukee Police Department after claiming he sustained an injury while snow sledding on the job in pursuit of a subject. After receiving thousands of dollars in workers' compensation benefits, the sledding incident came to light and he pled not guilty to insurance fraud.

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The Aftermath

The case settled several weeks before trial. Although the possibility existed of receiving a larger verdict at trial, it was felt that settling would be the best scenario for Mr. Harris.

"If we would have gone to trial, there is always a chance the outcome might be less than the settlement," explained Attorney Abraham. "By settling, we are certain Mr. Harris will receive financial assistance to deal with his ongoing medical needs."

The settlement will see that Mr. Harris is able to move to a residence that is wheelchair-accessible, since he has lived in a non-accessible residence for six years and would need individuals to lift him down a flight of stairs in order to leave.

"Mr. Harris is a 54-year-old and will need extensive medical care for the rest of his life," said Attorney Abraham. "Because of the actions of a former Milwaukee Police officer, Mr. Harris is unable to care for himself and will spend the rest of his life relying on others for his day-to-day care. As a quadriplegic, he is unable to walk, eat a meal on his own, or get out of bed without assistance."

The freedom that the settlement will ensure Curtis Harris is the freedom to leave his residence... on his own.


Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham