Petersburg Police Sued Over Wreck That Killed Two Youths After High Speed Chase

Attorney Charles H. Cuthbert, Jr., Files Lawsuits for Families of Victims

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Petersburg, Virginia (PRWEB) August 15, 2009

Attorney Charles H. Cuthbert, Jr., of Cuthbert Law Offices has filed lawsuits against the Petersburg Bureau of Police and two officers on behalf of the families of an injured teenager and a teenager killed in a wreck after a high-speed police chase.

The lawsuits were filed on behalf of Gary A. Hargrave, whose son, Donte Keivon Howlett, died in the July 2008 accident, and Ethel A. Burgess, whose daughter was seriously injured in the crash. They seek a total of $15.7 million in damages.

The lawsuits, filed in Petersburg Circuit Court for the Commonwealth of Virginia, are in re: Gary A. Hargrave, Administrator of the Estate of Donte Keivon Howlett, (Case No. CL09-539) and Ethel A. Burgess (Case No. CL09-538).

The fatal accident occurred on the night of July 22, 2008 after a police chase at speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour, according to the complaints. The lawsuits alleged that Petersburg Police Officer Christopher Mark Womack, driving a 2008 Dodge Charger police car, began a pursuit of a Pontiac Sunfire because he suspected that one of the occupants had shoplifted at a 7-Eleven store.

None of the occupants of the Pontiac had shoplifted anything from the store, the lawsuits state.

In chasing the vehicle, Officer Womack violated the rules and regulations of the Petersburg Police that stipulate that pursuits involving even moderate risk should not be initiated for misdemeanors or minor infractions, the lawsuit said. Since the pursuit involved speeds of 80 miles per hour, the chase represented a high-risk activity that endangered the public. As a result of Office Womack's gross negligence, Howlett was killed, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit also alleges that Police Sgt. David Cassort, the on-duty supervisor, breached his duty to monitor and control Officer Womack to prevent the high-speed pursuit that posed unreasonable danger. The lawsuit contended that the Petersburg police should have been aware of the hazards of a high-speed driving because two years earlier, in July 2006, another police officer responding to a call slammed into a Ford pickup, killing the driver and his wife and knocking the axles out from under the truck.

The lawsuit also names as a defendant the estate of Javon D. Butts, the driver of the Pontiac who was also killed in the accident.

Hargrave is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages, for his son who was killed. Burgess is asking for $5 million compensatory damages for her daughter who was seriously injured. In addition, both are asking for $350,000 in punitive damages.

About Cuthbert Law Offices

For more than 30 years, Cuthbert Law Offices has successfully litigated cases for clients and their families throughout Virginia. The firm handles personal injury claims including car and truck accidents, medical malpractice and wrongful deaths. The firm also helps clients obtain disability benefits that the Social Security Administration has denied.

Charles H. Cuthbert, Jr., firm partner, focuses his practice on representing victims of serious injuries. He is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Virginia School of Law. He is a member of the bars in Virginia and North Carolina, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals 4th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

To contact the law firm, call the Petersburg Office at (804) 733-3100 or the Richmond office at (804) 643-3100 or reach the firm online with the electronic contact form at http://www.cuthbertlaw.com/contact-us.asp.

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