Thursday, Sept. 11, 2008 | In what is perhaps the largest police misconduct verdict in San Diego County history, a Superior Court jury Monday ordered the city of San Diego to pay $8 million to a 28-year-old man who, in early 2006, fell into a coma after allegedly being knocked to the ground by a San Diego Police Department officer.
Officer Joseph De Veaux knocked San Diego resident Pablo Gomez off his feet, causing Gomez to fall backward and hit his head on the pavement after an altercation in the Gaslamp Quarter in January of 2006, according to a lawsuit filed by Gomez in 2007. Gomez suffered a five-inch skull fracture, and was in a coma for nearly a month following the incident.
The jury in Judge Frederic L. Link’s courtroom found that Gomez suffered a total of $11.5 million in damages. However, the panel found both Gomez and the city negligent, with the city bearing 70 percent of the responsibility, and Gomez 30 percent in the incident, which occurred at the corner of Market Street and Third Avenue.
“I feel that with the finding of comparative fault, the jury worked hard to do the just thing,” said Gomez’s attorney Michael R. Marrinan. Marrinan, who specializes in police misconduct cases, said it is the largest jury verdict for such a case in county history.
De Veaux was not disciplined following the incident, and has since voluntarily left the department to work as a private contractor in Iraq, said Don Shanahan, an assistant city attorney who has experience with police conduct cases. Shanahan did not handle this case for the city. The city’s insurance company, AIG, hired an outside firm, Los Angeles-based Lynberg & Watkins, to litigate the case.
“This is a straight-up cop,” Shanahan said. “He is not a bad guy.”