Jury verdicts: man wins policy brutality lawsuit. But, wait…

From Michael Schwirtz in yesterday’s New York Times, the kind of lawsuit story that makes you think it’s a TV show. It’s got a few lessons for any plaintiff, the biggest of which is:

If you have a good case, don’t offer your key witness, a/k/a your girlfriend, a share of the verdict to insure she’ll testify on your behalf.

That’s apparently what Sean Thomas did.

When Sean Thomas sued three New York City police officers in 2009, claiming they had used excessive force against him, he appeared to have a strong case. After his arrest the previous year during a dispute with his girlfriend at her home in the Bronx, he was handcuffed, wrapped in a restraint blanket, strapped to a stretcher and taken to the hospital where he was involuntarily sedated, according to court documents. He was never charged with any crime.

A federal jury ruled in his favor, and last July, a judge awarded him $450,000 in damages — thanks in part to testimony given by his girlfriend, Letitia Marrow.

But in an order released on Tuesday, a judge threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial. It seems that just days before Ms. Marrow had appeared in court, Mr. Thomas signed a written agreement promising to give her 20 percent of any damages he received if she testified on his behalf.

Oops. But especially for those cynics among you who think lawyers are amoral scumbags who will do anything for (1) their clients and (2) their fee, read the whole piece and see what David Zelman, one of Mr. Thomas’s lawyers, did when he found out about the agreement.

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