Excessive force case settled for $275,000
By Brian Bowling
Published: Friday, December 4, 2009
The state Attorney General's Office agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a federal lawsuit a Phoenix woman brought because a state police trooper forced her vehicle off the road after she ignored his signals to pull over during a drunken driving stop.
Shauna L. Huey, 29, claimed Trooper Guy Battestilli used excessive force in stopping her near Punxsutawney in April 2006.
The trooper responded in court papers that Huey had a blood-alcohol content of 0.19 percent -- more than twice the legal limit -- when he stopped her. He cited her for drunken driving, fleeing police, reckless driving, speeding and other traffic offenses. Jefferson County court records show she was put into a pretrial program for first offenders.
Lauren Bozart, spokeswoman for the Attorney General's Office, confirmed the settlement Thursday but couldn't provide specifics about why the state agreed to pay Huey.
State police Lt. Myra Taylor said she couldn't comment on the case. She said Battestilli remains a state trooper and that Pennsylvania troopers use the "precision immobilization technique" -- called PIT -- to stop vehicles and end police chases.
Huey's attorney, Tim O'Brien, didn't return calls seeking comment.
BSR Inc. driving school at Summit Point Raceway in Summit Point, W.Va., teaches police and security officers the PIT technique. Lee Chewey, director of training, said although the maneuver poses risk for the vehicle being stopped, it's a reasonably safe method for ending a pursuit when risk to the general public outweighs risk to the fleeing driver.
"It's a last-resort thing," he said.
Huey said in the lawsuit that Battestilli didn't have a "reasonable basis" to use the maneuver when he stopped her car on State Route 2017.
Battestilli responded that when he spotted Huey at 3:15 a.m., she was driving 58 to 60 mph in a 40 mph zone. When he activated his lights, she sped up slightly, to between 60 and 65 mph, and when he then turned on his siren she kept going, the trooper said.
Believing that Huey was trying to get away and because they were approaching a highway section with blind curves and possible oncoming traffic, Battestilli touched the left rear corner of Huey's vehicle with the right front corner of his vehicle and then hit the brakes, the trooper said in his response.
Both sides agree that Huey's vehicle, a Jeep Liberty, swerved and then struck an embankment. Huey claims her vehicle "flipped over"; the trooper's court response says it turned onto the driver's side.
Huey claimed in the lawsuit that she suffered unspecified injuries. The trooper's response said Huey was examined at an emergency room and released into police custody without treatment.
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