Jury selection is slated to begin Monday in a wrongful death suit that claims a man died of injuries he suffered in a traffic accident with a Baton Rouge police officer.
The accident occurred at 10:47 p.m. Feb. 2, 2008, at the intersection of Airline Highway and Delcourt Avenue, a pre-trial order says.
Nelson Dakmak Sr., who was 82 at the time, was driving a 1994 Geo Prizm south on Airline when he tried to make a left turn onto Delcourt, the order says.
While trying to maneuver the turn, Dakmak’s car collided with Baton Rouge Police Sgt. Stephen C. Tibbetts’ marked police unit, the order says. Tibbetts was chasing a fugitive north on Airline when the collision occurred, the order says.
Charles Musso Jr., Dakmak’s attorney, said his client was paralyzed in the accident and died two months later because of injuries from the crash.
Musso claims Tibbetts is responsible for the collision because he was driving at excessive speeds without engaging his lights or sirens, which is a violation of state law.
In the seconds before the crash, Tibbetts was traveling between 75 mph and 92 mph, the pre-trial order says.
Musso said the Police Department failed to investigate the accident or take action against Tibbetts, who has been in 13 wrecks during his almost 20-year law enforcement career.
“Their story is this was perfectly alright,” Musso said. “(The police say) it wasn’t a violation of the law and that a policeman can exceed the speed limit without his lights or siren, which is clearly contrary to what the law says.”
Veronica Jones, Tibbetts’ attorney, was unavailable Friday, but said in the pre-trial order that it was Dakmak who was at fault in the accident, not her client.
“The plaintiff failed to see what he should have seen,” Jones said in the order. “He failed to maintain a proper lookout for all oncoming traffic.”
As a result, Tibbetts did not have sufficient time to avoid the collision and is, therefore, not negligent, Jones said in the order.
Even if he were to be found negligent, Jones said in the order, there is no proof the injuries Dakmak suffered in the crash caused his death.
Police spokesman Cpl. L’Jean McKneely said Tibbetts is still a sergeant with the Police Department and is assigned to the K-9 division.
McKneely, on behalf of Police Chief Dewayne White, declined additional comment.
The case against the Police Department is assigned to state District Judge Wilson Fields.