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Florida Woman Settles Lawsuit Against Sheriff’s Officers for $67,500 After Arrest While in Premature Labor

In June 2010, Melanie Dawn Williams, who had been arrested by officers after allegedly running a red light on her way to the St. Vincent’s Medical Center emergency room in Jacksonville, Florida when she was in premature labor, accepted a settlement in her lawsuit instead of going to trial.

Williams had already made it to the hospital and was in the emergency room when she claimed two Jacksonville Sheriff’s officers tackled her, handcuffed her and put her facedown on the ground, then took her outside to the parking lot. A nurse came outside, found that Williams was bleeding vaginally, and convinced the officers to take her to the hospital’s labor and delivery unit, where doctors prevented her labor from progressing. Williams, who was seven months pregnant, spent ten days in the hospital.

As a result of the incident the two officers involved were disciplined, despite their claims that Williams never mentioned to them that she was pregnant and bleeding. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied the officers’ immunity claims, holding that Williams could sue for wrongful arrest but not for use of excessive force. See: Williams v. Sirmons, 307 Fed.Appx. 354 (11th Cir. 2009) (unpublished). The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, which permitted Williams’ suit to go forward and precipitated the $67,500 settlement.

Both parties seemed satisfied with the settlement agreement and resolution of the case. Fraternal Order of Police attorney Paul Daragjati said the settlement was a good outcome for the two officers involved, Matthew Sirmons and James Mills. Williams’ attorney, Linnes Finney, Jr., said the settlement indicated the city recognized its liability in the lawsuit.

“We think we proved our point,” Finney stated. See: Williams v. Sirmons, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 3:06-cv-00686-MMH-MCR.

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Related legal case

Williams v. Sirmons