City Settles Wrongful Death Suit for Half a Million Dollars

     Wichita Falls city councilors voted unanimously to settle the wrongful death lawsuit filed by families of two girls killed in a car crash involving a Wichita Falls police officer.
  Katie Crosbie was at the city council meeting and joins us now with more.
    Darrell, 500- thousand dollars is the maximum amount of money Texas law allows cities this size to pay in one settlement.
      And as we told you last week, the district attorney's office is waiting on the final accident report from DPS before it can present the case to the Grand Jury.

No one disputed that June's fatal crash that killed two teenage cousins and an unborn baby was a terrible tragedy ... and the city is not even disputing the right of their families to be compensated for their loss.

Glenn Barham
Wichita Falls Mayor
"Our thoughts & prayers go out to the families involved -- not only the victims of the accident -- but also Officer Whitefield -- or former officer Whitefield -- as well. This is something that's going to affect his life from now on, as well as those families."

Miles Risley
Wichita Falls City Attorney
"We do sincerely express our condolences & tried to handle this in a manner as sensitive as possible."

      City Attorney Miles Risley says his office continues to receive questions from the public on the status of the investigation into the accident and Officer Teddie Whitefield's role and responsibility.

"To avoid the appearance of favoritism, the city turned over initially this investigation to the texas department of public safety, & cooperated fully with the Texas Department of Public Safety to ensure that the city & the public & everybody involved knew the truth about this accident, & nobody could accuse us of shading that truth -- by having an independent third party handle all matters relating to the investigation."

"We've asked all the questions that the public has asked -- we've probably asked some questions that the public hasn't thought of. And we've come to the conclusion that it's best to settle this lawsuit -- not drag it out -- & fortunately or unfortunately, however you look at it, the city is limited to its amount of liability ... & that's that 500-thousand dollars."

Risley says under Texas law, Whitefield cannot be sued as an individual.

"This does not mean that he is off the hook, so to say. I would like to point out that Officer Whitefield has been terminated, & has withdrawn his appeal of that termination.  Any criminal prosecution issues will be handled by the district attorney."

District Attorney Maurine Shelton  says a special prosecutor has not been appointed to take over the case ...  but she has deputized a person outside her office  with experience and expertise in such cases to assist as an assistant district attorney.  Her office will be in charge of the case.

The city does *not* carry  liability insurance for such lawsuits, since it has its own legal department and believes it is cheaper to cover such expenses from general fund reserves.

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