ATLANTA, GA — Amassive nine-figure payout awarded to an elderly Black man left paralyzed from an encounter with a violently overzealous police officer in Georgia’s capital city has been slashed by more than half after a judge agreed that Atlanta shouldn’t have to pay so much despite the brutal nature of the case.
Just last month, a jury awarded a whopping $100 million to Jerry Blasingame, who, in 2018 as a 65-year-old, was hit with a Taser during a foot chase with Atlanta Police Officer Jon Grubbs over the decidedly nonviolent allegations of panhandling. Blasingame, now 69, fell and broke his neck after being shot with Grubb’s stun gun and is now paralyzed from the neck down.
Blasingame has become saddled with healthcare costs averaging about $1 million annually in addition to a $14 million medical bill, his lawyers said, prompting a jury to find that Grubbs used unreasonable and excessive force during the chase.
The jury ruled that Grubbs was on the hook for $40 million of the $100 million going to Blasingame, while the City of Atlanta was ordered to pay the remaining $60 million for providing inadequate training to its officers.
But on Wednesday, Judge Steve Jones — the same judge who presided over the trial — granted a motion filed by Atlanta to wipe out some or all of the $60 million the city had been ordered to pay. Jones decided that Atlanta was not responsible for any of the police brutality Grubbs doled out.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported:
Jones said he did not make the decision lightly as “trial by jury is a hallmark of our justice system, a bedrock principle of this country.” However, he said, the court must “correct a clear error in those rare cases where juries reach a legally unsupportable result.”
Jones said an absence of “sufficient evidence” compelled him to hand down his ruling.
“Because Plaintiff failed to show that the City of Atlanta was the moving force behind Officer Grubbs’ use of taser against Mr. Blasingame, the Court finds that there was not sufficient evidence at trial for the jury to find against the City of Atlanta with respect to use-of-force or use-of-taser policies,” Jones wrote in his decision.
To be sure, Blasingame still gets $40 million, which is nothing to sneeze at. However, given the serious nature of his physical condition and how much money it will cost in healthcare for the elderly man who was paralyzed through no fault of his own, Blasingame obviously could have used that extra $60 million.
This is America.