Police officer dismissed from Pizza Hut door suit

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 19, 2007, 5:21am

A Troy Police officer who was accused of yanking a door so hard at a local Pizza Hut that it injured an attorney was dismissed from a lawsuit by Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron on Oct. 5.

Clarence Jackson argued that he should not be held liable for any of attorney Amanda Verett's alleged injuries because he was on duty answering a 911 call at the Troy pizza place.

Jackson also argued he never even came into physical contact with Verett during the incident Feb. 12.

He also argued that he is a public employee and enjoys "absolute immunity" with respect to Verett's claim.

Jackson was sued by 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 causing an injury to her right shoulder.

Verett 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.

Verett claimed that due to the injury she suffered at Pizza Hut, she was unable to avoid falling on a later date and tore tendons and suffered injuries to her left hand and wrist, including a partial tear of the pronator quadratus muscle at the dorsum.

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

In May Byron awarded Verett a $311,700 default judgment for her injuries after Jackson failed to respond to the suit.

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 stated that after Jackson grabbed the door she felt a pain in her right shoulder.

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.

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.

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.

On June 22, Byron vacated the judgment stating he generally grants motions to vacate unless there is compelling evidence indicating he should rule otherwise.

Shortly after Byron vacated the judgment against Jackson, Maag filed an appeal with the appellate court in Mt. Vernon.

Justices James Wexstten, Melissa Chapman and Bruce Stewart dismissed the appeal ruling Byron's order vacating the judgment was not a final and appealable judgment because the merits of the case were still pending.

The justices also ruled that the appeal failed to vest them with jurisdiction pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 303.

Even though Jackson has been dismissed from the case, Verett still has two separate causes of action against Pizza Hut and One O Nine Company.

Pizza Hut responded to Verett's claim arguing Verett was mostly responsible for injuries she blamed on others and also argued that her own negligence might bar her claims.

Byron ruled that the owner of the Troy Pizza Hut property where Verett was allegedly injured on Feb. 12 is in default. A hearing will be scheduled at a later date to determine damages.

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