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Texas: False Arrest and Malicious Prosecution Result in $411,865.18 Recovery

A Texas probationer subjected to false arrest and malicious prosecution has been awarded $169,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees and costs.

Thomas Hannon, 37, unemployed and on probation, had an outstanding arrest warrant for probation revocation. Dallas police knew he was at a local hotel, and on August 1, 2007, police officers arrested several people, including Hannon, at the hotel in connection with a black bag that contained drugs, a .357 revolver and materials related to identity theft. Hannon was jailed on gun, drug and identity theft charges. He was exonerated and released more than 10 months later.

Hannon sued several police officers, but only his claims against officers Jerry Dodd, David Nevitt and Randy Sundquist survived to reach trial. The evidence showed that when the officers arrived at the hotel, Hannon had been waiting for a ride. He was not part of the initial arrest and began walking down the highway.

Police officers were notified that Hannon was walking away, and pursued and arrested him. Prior to the arrest, Hannon had been with a friend. The friend was carrying the black bag with the gun and drugs, but Hannon contended he was never in possession of the bag or knew what it contained.

The police report prepared by Dodd indicated that Nevitt saw Hannon with the bag before the arrest; Nevitt never indicated in the report that he saw Hannon possess the bag, but he later testified to that fact. Nevitt further testified that he never dealt with the hotel clerk.

It was proven that Nevitt lied. Surveillance video showed Hannon’s friend had the bag and Hannon was never in possession of it. The clerk testified that Nevitt had in fact requested a copy of the surveillance video from him. Hannon contended that Dodd and Nevitt falsified the police report to maliciously prosecute him; he also noted that Dodd failed to inform federal officials, who were investigating the identify theft, that he had been exonerated.

With respect to injuries, Hannon conceded he would have been arrested in any event and required to serve a month on the probation revocation, but said he remained jailed for 10 months as a result of the false arrest and malicious prosecution, which caused him severe depression and anxiety.

On February 3, 2012, a federal jury found that Hannon did not possess the bag and Dodd and Nevitt had violated his rights. Hannon was awarded $93,500 for mental anguish and wrongful confinement against Nevitt and Dodd jointly and severally, $500 in punitive damages against Dodd and $75,000 in punitive damages against Nevitt, for a total of $169,000.

On March 14, 2013, the district court denied the defendants’ motions for a new trial and judgment as a matter of law. The court also awarded attorneys’ fees to Hannon in the amount of $241,042.73, plus $1,591.81 in attorneys’ costs and $4,414.16 in Hannon’s costs. The court further awarded $2,591.71 in costs against Hannon in favor of defendant Sundquist, who prevailed at trial.

On May 8, 2013, pursuant to a joint motion filed by the parties, the district court vacated the judgment and dismissed the case after a settlement was reached in which the City of Dallas agreed to pay a total of $411,865.18 in combined damages, attorneys’ fees and costs. Hannon was represented by Dallas attorneys Scott Palmer and John E. Wall, Jr. See: Hannon v. Nevitt, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Tex.), Case No. 3:09-cv-00066-N.

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