Judge to decide whether Troy cop stands trial in Pizza Hut door case

Steve Korris Oct. 1, 2009, 7:45am


Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth must decide whether Troy policeman Clarence Jackson should stand trial in civil court on a claim that he willfully and wantonly injured local lawyer Amanda Verett.

Jackson's lawyer, Christine McClimans of Alton, moved on Sept. 24 for summary judgment that would free Jackson from a trial Ruth has set to start on Nov. 16.

Verett claims she suffered injuries leaving Pizza Hut in Troy because the restaurant owned a faulty door that Jackson pulled one way while she pulled the other way.

Her lawyer, Thomas Maag of Edwardsville, alleges negligence against Pizza Hut but can't allege it against a municipal worker on the job like Jackson.

To recover from Jackson, Verett and Maag must prove willful and wanton conduct.

So far, they haven't even proved contact.

"Officer Jackson never touched her," McClimans wrote to Ruth.

"She did not actually see officer Jackson pull the door shut (if that is what happened)," McClimans wrote.

"She did not let go of the door.

"She did not fall when the door was allegedly pulled away from her.

"She did not tell anyone in the Pizza Hut that she was injured.

"She did not tell officer Jackson that she had been injured.

"She left and went to the Troy police station yet did not report to anyone there that she had been injured.

"Officer Jackson denies this happened and those who had a clear view of him support his testimony."

McClimans also wrote that in a deposition Verett said, "I was either holding it there. I am sorry. I can't remember. Or I was holding it on the handle on the other side of the door."

McClimans attached bits of depositions full of potential trial drama.

A Pizza Hut worker about to lose his job brought Verett and lawyer Michael Reid to the restaurant with him to pick up his last paycheck.

"He had documents he had to sign that we weren't even allowed to read," Reid said in a deposition.

"At that point I said we are at a standstill," Reid said. "My client is not going to sign anything without us first proofing it."

Reid said manager Carla Damron got agitated, bordering on belligerent.

In her deposition Damron said that she wanted to talk to the worker outside the presence of the lawyers.

"We asked them if they could sit over here," Damron said. "They wouldn't. They basically hovered over us like vultures. It was crazy."

Damron called police and reported an employee stole over $5,000 in discount tickets, canceled meals and other things.

"He brought two attorneys and I told them to get away from us and let me do my job and they won't do it," Damron said.

"He knows how much he's stolen so he's real scared."

A dispatcher said he would send somebody, and he sent Jackson.

Verett said in a deposition that, "He had on kind of a glowering, I am a cop and you are a cretin, look."

Reid said in his deposition that, "The manager essentially said this is ridiculous, we are just trying to go through this process, why are you being such a pain in the ass?"

Reid said Jackson asked Damron if she wanted them to leave.

Damron said yes, Reid said, and Jackson told them to scram.

Reid said he asked Damron if she would give him his client's last paycheck.

Reid said Damron told him he could make an appointment to finish the interview.

"I started to ask another question," Reid said. "The officer puts his hand on his mace and says you need to scram."

Jackson said in a deposition that, "My words to them were, she does not have to tell you a third time to leave."

"They picked up their stuff and started to leave," Jackson said.

A lawyer deposing Jackson asked if he threatened to arrest anyone.

Jackson said yes.

The lawyer asked who. Jackson said, "Michael Reid."

Reid said at his deposition, "I'm like at this point, officer, what is your badge number?"

Reid said Jackson told him he didn't need it.

"I'm like very well, we will go down to the police station and talk to the duty sergeant," Reid said.

Verett said in her deposition that, "I buckled my briefcase, put it on my shoulder, and walked to the door behind Michael."

She said she wasn't pushing it. She said she held it to her body.

A lawyer deposing her asked if her back was to Jackson, and she said her right side was.

The lawyer said, "You are kind of facing the door that goes to the outside, holding the inner door with your right arm?" Verett said yes.

The lawyer asked if Jackson grabbed the door. Verett said yes.

The lawyer asked what happened next. She said, "He pulls it closed."

The lawyer asked if she said anything. She said not that she recalled.

The lawyer said, "You didn't ask why he did it?"

Verett said, "No, I didn't. I just thought he was being a jerk."

"My right arm moved sharply away from my body and when it was at full extension then the rest of my body followed towards my right arm," Verett said.

The lawyer asked if she went to the police department, and she said yes.

The lawyer asked if they made a report against Jackson, and she said they did not.

"Michael overrode my desire to make the report against officer Jackson, feeling it was more important to take care of our client's needs first," she said.

In a deposition from yet another point of view, Pizza Hut worker Christopher Carnes said Jackson didn't touch the door.

"I mean, it hit his back," Carnes said. "He held it there with his back."

He said, "As he was exiting, the door was already propped open, starting to close."

A lawyer deposing Carnes asked who propped it open.

Carnes said, "It would have been the male lawyer as he was leaving."

Ruth set a hearing on the motion Oct. 23.

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