Troy cop says he's immune from Pizza Hut lawsuit

Steve Gonzalez Jun. 3, 2007, 2:45am

Tom Maag

A Troy police officer who was slammed with a $311,700 default judgment for allegedly causing a lawyer's shoulder injuries while opening the door for her, says he should not be held liable.

Clarence Jackson, who was on duty at the time of the incident Feb. 12 at a Troy Pizza Hut, filed a motion to vacate Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron's judgment claiming he was on duty answering a 911 call at the pizzeria.

Jackson was sued by Amanda Verett, a family attorney in Edwardsville, who alleged she was injured when she held the door to allow herself and Jackson to exit.

She claimed Jackson grabbed the door in such a fashion that it caused the door to suddenly and sharply move and injured her right shoulder.

Represented by Anthony E. Dos Santos of Reilly Law in Edwardsville, Jackson states he is statutorily immune from allegations of negligence because Verett's suit arises from his response to a 911 call at the Pizza Hut.

In his motion to vacate, Jackson said that once he was served with the summons, he turned it over to the city of Troy for the assumption of his defense pursuant to statute.

He has asked Byron to vacate the judgment and grant him an additional 21 days to file an answer to the suit. Jackson also asked for a trial by jury which was set for December 2008.

Verett also claimed Jackson violated his duty to use ordinary care for the safety of others when he operated the Pizza Hut door which caused her to sustain an acromion process impingement in her right shoulder.

She claimed her injuries caused her to suffer a disfigurement, severe pain and discomfort and medical expenses.

Verett claimed Pizza Hut was negligent by maintaining a door for ingress and egress which was not reasonably safe and was likely to injure people when being held open and grabbed by another.

Verett asked Byron to enter a default judgment in excess of $50,000 against Jackson because he failed to answer her lawsuit within 30 days.

Verett's attorney, Tom Maag of Edwardsville, filed the motion for default judgment alleging Jackson was served on March 8, and failed to answer the complaint in 30 days as allowed by Illinois law.

In her affidavit in support of the default judgment, Verett states that after Jackson grabbed the door she felt a pain in her right shoulder.

She claimed that several days later, the shoulder began to hurt worse; she sought treatment from Granite City chiropractor Dr. Mark Eavenson.

Eavenson is known as the most "prolific filer of class action lawsuits in Madison County."

Verett stated that Eavenson decided to go with a conservative treatment. However, she says, it was not sufficient because she had a torn rotator cuff and an acromion impingement in her right shoulder causing her to have surgery on April 16, by Dr. Richard Lehman.

She stated that she still continues to see Eavenson for physical therapy that is scheduled to continue until July 15.

Verett also claimed she will require two additional surgeries and has already incurred $22,000 in medical expenses and believes the two additional surgeries will cost $57,000.

Verett also stated she is unable to drive any great distance without extreme pain. She does not think she will be able to drive until sometime in June.

"My shoulder is always hurting," Verett wrote. "I am in agony because of the injury that Mr. Clarence Jackson inflicted upon me."

She added, "The pain is expected to continue for several months into the future."

Verett also claimed she has lost at least $11,000 in income she would have earned as well clients and had to refer to other lawyers.

Matthew Verett, Amanda's husband, also filed an affidavit in support of the default judgment.

He claimed the day the incident occurred, Amanda came home in "great pain and discomfort."

"This was not a simple minor bruise," Mr. Verett wrote.

He claimed the medication was not helping his wife and he found her crying in the living room twice.

Matthew claimed that thanks to physical therapy and medication, Amanda seemed to be getting better. But four days after the Pizza Hut incident, she fell in the driveway because of the ice and snow.

He claimed he saw her roll to her left and fall on her left hand and immediately began to cry because she thought she broke her wrist.

"Amanda did not land or fall on her right shoulder, as she was obviously protecting it with the left side of her body," Matthew wrote.

He claimed Amanda had a severe sprain of her wrist and had to wear a cast for 10 days.

"I had to help Amanda brush and wash her hair, fasten her brassiere and button her shirts," he wrote.

Matthew also claimed Amanda cried for hours before the surgery because she was scared and in a lot of pain. He also claimed his love life has been very poor since the injury because Amanda is often in too much pain.

"In my opinion, as a nursing student at SIUE, all of the injuries to Amanda's right shoulder and arm were caused by Clarence Jackson jerking the door out of her hand," Matthew wrote.

Michael Reid also filed an affidavit for the default judgment, stating that he personally served Jackson with the summons on March 8, at 1:30 p.m. at the Troy Police Department.

On April 5, Pizza Hut's attorney, Andrew Miller, filed an answer claiming Verett was more than 50 percent responsible for her alleged injuries which bars any recovery on her part.

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