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Hupy and Abraham Receives Largest Police Brutality Settlement in Wisconsin History

Posted on Oct 21, 2009

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

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

At the Station, Mr. Harris was taken to a booking room, where he was processed by three police officers.  During his booking, he was not placed in handcuffs, demonstrating that the officers did not consider him to be a threat.  While in the booking room, the arresting officer, Kevin Clark, instructed Mr. Harris to walk forward to a desk.  While he was walking toward the desk, Officer Clark 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, rendering him a quadriplegic.  The entire course of events 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 ground moaning, and telling the officers that he thought he was paralyzed, Officer Clark stood over him, shouting obscenities at him.  The officers then laughed at him, and told him he should win an academy award.  He was further ridiculed, and called various obscenities, and on a number of occasions was referred to as a part of the female anatomy.  After Mr. Harris did not get up off the ground as instructed, the officers picked him up and placed him in a chair, which he promptly fell out of to the floor.

Officer Clark was later fired by the Milwaukee Police Department after an incident where he was injured snow sledding on the job.  He later claimed he sustained the injury pursuing a subject.  After receiving thousands of dollars in workers compensation benefits, the sledding incident came to light, and Officer Clark plead not guilty to insurance fraud.

"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 case settled several weeks before trial.  Although the possibility of receiving a larger verdict at trial existed, it was felt that settling was the best case scenerio 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 also see that Mr. Harris is able to move to a residence that is wheelchair accessible.  For the last six years, he has lived in a non-wheelchair accessible residence, meaning that to leave home, he needed individuals to lift him down a flight of stairs.  The settlement will ensure that Mr. Harris will now have the freedom to leave his residence on his own.