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Santa Clara Insurer Settles Litigation with Mother of Arson Suspect: Decision Minimizes Trial Costs, City Defends Good-Faith Actions of Police

The Santa Clara City Council approved a $6.7 million settlement on Tuesday by the City’s insurance carrier with the mother of an arson suspect who allegedly suffered nerve damage to her foot when attempting to help her daughter avoid arrest.

The insurance settlement minimizes further legal costs for the City, dismisses the involved police officers and Chief of Police Mike Sellers as defendants, and bars the plaintiff from bringing further claims against the police and the City.

“Although there was significant disagreement about the extent of the injury, there was no dispute that the plaintiff sustained a broken ankle in the course of the entry to the plaintiff’s home without a warrant,’’ said Santa Clara City Attorney Brian Doyle. “The City’s insurer determined that the most prudent course of action was for it to pay an amount that would result in settlement.”


As a result of the settlement, compelling evidence that disputes the extent of the plaintiff’s injury claims and current disability will not be presented at trial.

“If this case were brought to court, we would have provided evidence and testimony demonstrating that our officers’ actions were fully within the law and in accordance with accepted police practices,” said Chief Sellers. “It’s disappointing to not have that opportunity. I fully support the police officers who acted in good faith to arrest this arsonist wanted on felony charges.”

The case stems from an April 4, 2016 fire at Santa Clara High School that forced the evacuation of more than 1,800 students and faculty and caused $350,000 damage. The Santa Clara Police Department investigation determined arson was the fire’s cause and identified two juvenile suspects, one of whom is the plaintiff’s daughter. Santa Clara police officers sought the cooperative surrender of both suspects; while one suspect surrendered, the other suspect and her mother—the plaintiff—did not.

On April 12, 2016, four Santa Clara police officers located the arson suspect at the plaintiff’s San Jose residence. The officers were met with further refusals from the plaintiff upon their arrival at the residence. While obstructing the police from attempting to arrest her daughter, the plaintiff lost her footing, tripped off the front porch and fractured her ankle. Once the plaintiff was in custody, the officers located the suspect hiding inside the residence and arrested her. Four months later, the plaintiff and the arson suspect were involved in a physical altercation that resulted in the plaintiff being pushed down stairs at the same residence.

“Due to the fact that this is a settlement of litigation, there is limited information that can be publicly shared,” said Santa Clara Community Relations Manager Jennifer Yamaguma.


Note: The City’s press release was edited for clarity.


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