Milwaukee County paid the estate of Ceasar Stinson, a beloved Milwaukee community activist, and Chipo Stinson, his wife, $500,000 in partial settlement for the limits allowed under state law for the January 2020 fatal vehicle collision caused by sheriff’s deputy Joel Striecher’s reckless driving.
A historic ruling from Wisconsin Federal Court allows Stinson’s estate, represented by GTW partner Mark Thomsen, to have a jury determine under federal law whether former deputy Stricher’s reckless actions violated Stinson’s federal constitutional rights (for amounts not capped by state law).
On January 25, 2020, Streicher was on duty traveling northbound on North 10th street in a sheriff’s SUV when he ran a red light and struck Stinson, who was traveling westbound with the right-of-way on West State Street. Streicher was driving at about 30 mph for over 11 seconds after the light turned red, never braked and was driving in a right turn-only lane when he went straight through the intersection, killing Ceasar Stinson.
The lawsuit filed by attorney Thomsen claimed that the reckless actions of Streicher resulted in the violation of both Stinson’s rights under state law as well as his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Under Section 1983, an individual has the right to sue state government employees and others acting “under color of state law” for civil rights violations. It is clearly established that when a law enforcement officer engages in reckless criminal conduct which results in bodily injury or death, the plaintiff’s right of recovery is governed by federal law.
In May of 2020, Streicher was charged with a felony and pled guilty. He was sentenced to six months in jail. However, it came to light that Streicher was fitted for a GPS monitor and placed on the Electronic Monitoring Program at home. When Cearra Stinson, Ceasar’s daughter, discovered the ploy and cried foul, the court ordered him back to jail.
In moving forward with a jury trial, Thomsen seeks to recover additional justice and damages for the estate beyond the $250,000 per person maximum for personal injury claims made against the county government under state law.
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