City releases excessive force lawsuit settlement agreements | SteamboatToday.com

City releases excessive force lawsuit settlement agreements

Steamboat Springs City Hall

— Documents show the city of Steamboat Springs and its insurance company have so far spent $569,000 to settle excessive force lawsuits.

Following an open records request, the city released the settlement agreements related to four lawsuits. In all the agreements, the city denies any wrongdoing.

Steamboat Springs attorney Grant Bursek represented the clients in the four lawsuits that have been settled.

There are two other excessive force lawsuits still being litigated.

Five of the six lawsuits involved a Steamboat Springs Police Department officer who no longer works at the department.

The city directly paid a $50,000 deductible for each of the settlements. The city’s insurance company covers the rest of the settlement amounts, in addition to any legal fees the insurance company incurred to litigate the lawsuits.

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The biggest settlement was $230,000 awarded to John Ferrugia.

Police initially believed Ferrugia was burglarizing a gym Sept. 17, 2012.

When officers spoke with Ferrugia, he was upset and said he had a right to be at the 24-hour gym. Officers were suspicious, and the situation escalated when officers decided to go hands on with Ferrugia and forced him to the pavement.

In an attempt to disable Ferrugia, an officer delivered several knee strikes. Ferrugia claimed he had injuries that required surgery.

After finding Ferrugia's gym membership card inside, officers stood Ferrugia up, and his handcuffs were removed.

Chelsea Blanchette’s lawsuit was settled for $34,000. Blanchette’s claims were very similar to Ferrugia’s. Blanchette’s incident happened almost exactly a year later at the same gym.

David Weaver’s lawsuit was settled for $230,000. Weaver claimed that while in custody at the Routt County Jail on Dec. 4, 2013, a Steamboat police officer delivered multiple knee strikes, including one to his kidney. After Weaver began urinating blood, he was taken to the hospital.

A judge on Tuesday accepted a settlement agreement related to a lawsuit filed by Cory Hynes and Kyler Livingston. They settled for $90,000 and claimed they were play fighting when officers tackled them and took them to the ground head first April 12, 2013. Livingston said he was knocked unconscious.

The two outstanding lawsuits were filed by Ben Holdridge and Trey Sheets.

Holdridge claims he was hit with a blunt object while sitting in the back of a patrol car Sept. 9, 2014.

Sheets, a Wyoming cowboy, claims he was tackled to the ground by officers downtown and injured his wrist as a result. Sheets was in town competing at the July Fourth rodeo in 2014. Sheets claimed he missed 33 rodeos because of the injury.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland