Vermont AG’s Office Pays $40K to Settle Suit

December 1, 2009

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has paid $40,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a man who claims he was Tasered in 2006 by state police as he was having a seizure that was mistaken as an attempt to resist arrest.

Lawrence Fairbrother of Fairlee, 57, said he’s been unable to work for years because of a disorder that causes sudden, random seizures. He was shocked by an electric stun-gun by police who had been called to assist him with a medical problem.

He was charged with driving under the influence, which was later dropped. Fairbrother sued in federal court in 2007, alleging excessive force.

State police deny wrongdoing, state assistant attorney general J.J. Tyzbir told the Valley News. He said he agreed to the settlement to avoid the risk of trial, where a jury could have awarded more money.

“We still believe Mr. Fairbrother was not actually in the throes of a seizure,” Tyzbir said. “We believe Mr. Fairbrother was actually trying to evade the officers and was resisting them and was noncompliant. But whenever you go to trial, you risk not getting a favorable outcome. This was, frankly, a business decision.”

Fairbrother said he would use some of the money to pay off funeral expenses for his grandson, who he said died suddenly last summer in Florida.

Regarding the settlement, “I have mixed thoughts,” Fairbrother said. “In the long run, it saved the taxpayer money by not going to trial. It gets it over with, and they found out they were wrong.”

On June 16, 2006, police were called to the home of a friend of Fairbrother’s. The dispatcher told Vermont State Police troopers that Fairbrother, who had driven to the home, was having a seizure, and that he had consumed alcohol.

Court records say three troopers said they found Fairbrother flailing under a parked pickup truck. His medication lay on the ground and he was clawing at the dirt and pulling himself farther under the vehicle. Troopers repeatedly asked Fairbrother to come out from under the vehicle, but Fairbrother did not emerge. Eventually, troopers dragged him out.

Records say the troopers pulled his left arm behind his back, but when Fairbrother, still shaking, did not respond to an order to move his right arm, Trooper Hugh O’Donnell shot him between the shoulder blades with a Taser stun gun.

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