Police officer claims he never came in contact with Verett

Steve Gonzalez Jun. 21, 2007, 9:00am

Troy Pizza Hut

A Troy police officer who was ordered to pay Edwardsville attorney Amanda Verett $311,700 for a shoulder injury claims he never even came into physical contact with her during an incident Feb. 12 at the Troy Pizza Hut.

Sworn affidavits and other court documents filed by Troy officials this week, including the police chief and assistant city administrator, claim the reason officer Clarence Jackson was at the Pizza Hut in the first place was because Verett and her male law partner were causing a disturbance. Jackson was responding to a 911 call.

Verett, a family attorney in Edwardsville, filed suit against Pizza Hut and Jackson alleging she was injured when walking out the door of the restaurant while holding open the door to allow herself and Jackson to exit.

Last month Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron entered the default judgment against Jackson after he failed to respond to the complaint. Jackson filed a motion to vacate the judgment, which Verett is opposing.

The recent documents filed in the case also claim Verett went to the Troy Police Department after the Pizza Hut incident to complain about Jackson's "bad attitude," but she did not complain of injuries.

In her lawsuit filed in March, Verett claimed Jackson grabbed the door in such a fashion that it caused the door to suddenly and sharply move and injure her right shoulder.

Verett alleged 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.

In early June, Jackson filed a motion to vacate the judgment claiming he was on duty at the time of the alleged incident.

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.

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.

Verett, represented by Thomas Maag of Edwardsville, filed a response to Jackson's motion asking Byron to deny the motion.

"Ninety-three days after Jackson was served, this court entered a default judgment against him as Mr. Jackson did not bother to respond to the complaint," Maag wrote.

"On May 21, 103 days after being served, Jackson finally got around to responding to the lawsuit."

In his original complaint for Verett, Maag did not mention that Jackson was a uniformed on-duty police officer for the city of Troy, or that Jackson was responding to a disturbance allegedly involving Verett.

In his latest motion, Maag says he does not dispute that Jackson is a Troy police officer, but claims he didn't act diligently once he was served.

Maag argues that Jackson's meritorious defense is not applicable in this case and is frivolous as a matter of law.

He also argues that Jackson is not entitled to due diligence because Troy was negligent in responding to Verett's claim.

Maag further argues that Jackson did "to (sic) little to (sic) late."

He argues that the lawsuit was no secret.

"The United States Chamber of Commerce, through its local mouthpiece, The Madison County Record, chose to make this case its cause celèbre," Maag wrote.

He cited five articles written by the newspaper.

"Since it is a foregone conclusion they will read this filing in advance of the hearing, they should consider this notice of the possibility they will be called to testify at this hearing," Maag wrote in a footnote.

Maag argues that if Byron were to vacate the default judgment, Verett would be prejudiced because Jackson will have an unfair advantage because her case has already been laid out.

He also argues that Jackson does not deny Verett's allegations and that he only says he is immune from damages.

But Maag also argues that Jackson's defense that he was responding to a 911 call should fail because at the time of the alleged incident with the door, Jackson was not enforcing or executing any laws.

"Under defendant's argument if Mr. Jackson had, after the emergency decided to purchase a hot cup of coffee at the Pizza Hut while he was there, tripped on his untied shoe lace, and spilled it on the plaintiff as he was leaving, burning her face, Mr. Jackson would be immune from liability," Maag wrote. "This is not the law."

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