Monday, January 31, 2022

Baker v. City of McKinney Civil Lawsuit Update

Another Update from June 22, 2022 from a Facebook post:

Update again: See thread for quote from City Manager, Paul Grimes re: appeal
Update: I'm told there will be an appeal and the TML will be involved...
Great news for citizens, bad news for us taxpayers. Now, we have to understand where in the city organization this particular bad policy came from so it can be fixed.

Settlement is $59,656.59 and legal costs for us are $146,921.50 up to 5/31 only (so this number isn't final). We don't know if the city will appeal or not...
The verdict is in and here are the big picture findings:

"SHERMAN, Texas—Today, a federal jury ruled that Vicki Baker is entitled to $59,656.59 in damages after a SWAT team destroyed her McKinney, Texas, home while pursuing a fleeing fugitive in July 2020. The ruling is a victory for Vicki, who joined forces with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a lawsuit in March 2021, after the city refused to pay for the damage that had been caused.

Today’s decision comes just weeks after U.S. District Court Judge Amos Mazzant III ruled that the destruction of Vicki’s home was a “taking” that required the city to pay just compensation. On April 29, Judge Mazzant rejected the city of McKinney’s argument that police action should be categorically exempt from the general requirement that government pay for property it destroys, holding that the argument “rests on an untenable analysis of police power and eminent domain.” Because “the destruction to Baker’s home was intentional and foreseeable,” compensation was required, he ruled.

While Judge Mazzant’s ruling held that Vicki was entitled to compensation, the jury today also found that the city of McKinney’s refusal to pay Vicki violated her civil rights, which makes the city liable under federal civil-rights law as well."

Last November, a judge in the US District Court denied the city of McKinney’s motion to dismiss Ms. Baker's case. 
Please review the ruling and history of this case here.  

Please see the background of the case here. Ms. Baker is represented by the Institute for Justice, a non-profit that takes abuse of government cases. 

Vicki Baker's house after it was destroyed (Institute for Justice).

The city offered Ms. Baker a settlement at some point recently. Ms. Baker rejected the settlement. I contacted someone with IJ’s communications department, Mr. King, to ask why Ms. Baker rejected the settlement. I also asked about a few rumors I have heard about this case.

1.  Why did Ms. Baker reject the settlement?  

Mr. King sent me back the following to be attributed Jeffrey Redfern, the IJ attorney representing Ms. Baker sent via email:

The city did eventually offer to pay for the full costs of Vicki’s repairs, but not until after she had already filed suit and won the motion to dismiss (the city’s attempt to have her case thrown out).


Vicki did not accept this settlement offer from the city because she wants them to include an assurance that individuals who are in similar situations in the future can be compensated without having to sue the city. They’ve refused to grant her this assurance, so she’s continuing her case to protect other McKinney residents from having to go through a similar ordeal in the future.”


If the city of McKinney had compensated Ms. Baker when she asked for compensation—anytime between the time her house was destroyed in July of 2020 to March of 2021 when she sued for compensation— there would be no lawsuit. As of December 17th, the taxpayers are $50k in the hole for something that should have never gotten this far.


2.  Was Ms. Baker responsible for this whole thing because she was “harboring a criminal?”

"Neither Ms. Baker nor her daughter are remotely at fault for what happened. Ms. Baker’s daughter let the armed fugitive into the house because she was quite reasonably terrified of him, but she also immediately fled and contacted the police."

According to the redacted police reports, the IJ, and the judge’s opinion from November 18th denying the city’s request for dismissal, there was no harboring of a criminal involved in this ordeal. 


3.   Is this suit now something the city must see to the end because certain immunities (tort?) are at stake for all cities?


“Tort immunity has nothing to do with this case, and the federal court has already held that this is not a tort suit. This is a suit demanding just compensation under the U.S. and Texas constitutions because the city intentionally destroyed Ms. Baker’s property for the public purpose of apprehending a dangerous criminal. If the city takes your house to build much-needed school, road, or jail, the city has to compensate the owner, even though the city did nothing wrong. As the Supreme Court has explained, “[t]he Fifth Amendment's guarantee that private property shall not be taken for a public use without just compensation was designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40 (1960).


Remember, just 5 short years ago, the city of McKinney justified a continued legal battle with Arch Resorts because of the impact it would supposedly have on the future of the city and all home rule cities. The city finally ended the Arch Resorts battle after over $500k in legal fees and a $1.9M settlement. The incoming mayor, the current mayor, was very eager to get the case settled because it was a waste of money. This case is no different. 

CORRECTION: All comment attributions go to Jeffrey Redfern, IJ attorney for Ms. Baker.

No comments:

Post a Comment