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Civil case of WPD officer run over by SUV headed for trial in August

(WIBW)
Published: Mar. 3, 2021 at 4:00 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Four years after now medically retired Wichita Police Department Officer Brian Arterburn sustained life-altering injuries when he was run over by an SUV during a pursuit, a law firm representing Arterburn and his wife, WPD Officer Claudale M. Arterburn, announced that a lawsuit seeking millions in punitive damages in the case is moving ahead with an August 9 trial date scheduled in Sedgwick County. The firm representing the Arterburns, Hutton & Hutton said the trial is expected to last four weeks. The lawsuit seeks damages from a Wichita car dealership (Eddie’s Chevrolet Cadillac) and the man who stole the vehicle that hit Arterburn. It contends both are responsible for Arterburn’s injuries.

The lawsuit said a black 2016 Chevy Tahoe from Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac was the fleeing vehicle that ran over Arterburn on a police pursuit on Feb. 7, 2017. It said the vehicle was taken from the dealership in December 2016 in addition to two dealer tags.

“The vehicle and tags were not reported to police until Feb. 7, 2017 - almost two months from the date the Tahoe went missing,” the lawsuit said.

Justin Terazas, the driver of the Tahoe taken from the dealership, was eventually captured and the Tahoe recovered, the lawsuit said. But the end of the chase did not conclude until after the vehicle ran over Arterburn.

Methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia were found in the stolen vehicle.

The lawsuit stated that “Eddy’s Chevrolet failed to secure its inventory, failed to promptly report the stolen Tahoe, and failed to establish and enforce safeguards to prevent vehicle thefts. Further, the lawsuit claims Eddy’s Chevrolet violated its duty to ensure its vehicle was not furnished to a reckless or incompetent driver. The lawsuit also alleges that Eddy’s Chevrolet’s principals and agents knew, or should have known, that there is a strong correlation between automobile thefts and automobile accidents, yet failed to act on this knowledge.”

An attorney for Hutton & Hutton Law Firm questioned how Terrazas got access to the 2016 Tahoe and how Eddy’s overlooked that it was missing from its inventory until police asked about it nearly two months later.

“The dealership was aware for over seven weeks that the Tahoe and a spare key were missing from dealership premises yet failed to take any action whatsoever to locate the Tahoe or report it stolen,” Hutton & Hutton said in a March 3 news release. “Only when the Wichita Police Department came to the dealership the morning of February 7, inquiring about the status of the Tahoe and dealer’s tag on the back, did dealership personnel make a stolen car report. To this day, the dealership claims it has no understanding as to how or why Justin Terrazas came into possession of the Tahoe and its spare key – nor does it claim to know whether the Tahoe was actually stolen.”

The Arterburns also claim Terrazas acted recklessly in running over Officer Brian Arterburn during his attempt to flee from Wichita police.

In November 2018, Terrazas appeared in Sedgwick County District Court and pled guilty to reckless aggravated battery and possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute. Terrazas’ earliest possible release date from the Kansas Department of Corrections is September 7, 2050.

Hutton & Hutton said “the Arterburn’s lawsuit has been fiercely litigated over the past 36 months.”

The firm said Eddie’s Chevrolet Cadillac first moved to dismiss the lawsuit in April 2018. The Kansas Court of Appeals and the Kansas Supreme Court, declined to review the case, clearing it to move forward, moving into discovery in the summer of 2018.

“Since that time, over 65 witnesses have been deposed, thousands of documents and other evidentiary items have been discovered, and dozens of contested motions have been decided by the Court,” Hutton & Hutton said in its release.

Last August, the law firm said the District Court granted the Arterburns’ motion to add punitive-damages claims against Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac over the dealership’s objection, finding that Claudale Arterburn had “demonstrated to this court by clear and convincing evidence that it is more likely than not that she will prevail on her claims.” In November, the court issued a similar order allow the Arterburns to pursue punitive damages against Terrazas.

Hutton & Hutton explained that a court decision last week denying motions to dismiss the lawsuit, “effectively clears the Arterburns’ case for trial.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages to pay for Brian Arterburn’s “extraordinary medical care and hospitalizations, including the costs of future specialized care and home health assistance,” Hutton & Hutton said.

“Reimbursement of the City of Wichita’s medical expenditures for Officer Arterburn are covered in the lawsuit as well, which also seeks punitive damages to punish the defendants for their conduct,” the law firm said in its news release.

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