City of Beaumont accused of withholding evidence, plaintiffs want sanctions

David Yates Jun. 1, 2010, 9:00am

A local couple who sued the city of Beaumont after their teenage daughter and a police officer collided on a roadway has filed a motion for spoliation against the city, alleging officials refuse to hand over crucial evidence.

Jay and Valerie Brocato, on behalf of their minor daughter, Macy, filed suit against the city in March 2009 claiming police Officer Lance Carmouche "was swerving in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed without his audible and visual warning systems" turned on to alert other motorists.

On June 1 a hearing was held on the Brocatos' motion for spoliation jury instruction, which accuses the city of refusing to hand over Officer Carmouche's police cruiser's "black box" and GPS system.

The Brocatos' motion also petitions presiding Judge Milton Shuffield, 136th District Court, to enforce sanctions against the city for refusing to comply with discovery requests.

Judge Shuffield did not immediately rule on the motion and said he would take the issue under advisement while both sides continue to supply him with evidence.

Court documents show that on May 23, 2008, Macy Brocato was traveling southbound on Major Drive. She was in the process of making a left-hand turn onto Westfield when she "failed to yield the right-of-way" and struck Officer Carmouche, who was on his way to assist a fellow officer.

In response to the Brocatos' suit, the city filed a counterclaim seeking actual damages for the destruction of its police cruiser.

Officer Carmouche also joined the city's counterclaim, alleging he was injured in the incident.

On May 11, the Brocatos filed their spoliation motion, asserting that "other than a one page computer generated summary from the GPS monitoring system of the police cruiser, plaintiffs have been denied access to any other information involving the black box recorder of GPS system."

The one-page printout from the GPS system shows that the police cruiser was traveling at 81 miles per hour at the time of the collision.

"The facts surrounding the collision are hotly disputed ... there can be no better evidence than the information from the black box and GPS systems," the motion states. "The plaintiffs' ability to prove their case has been severely hampered by defendant's failure."

The city argues that the plaintiffs did not request that the GPS and black box data be downloaded and saved before the police cruiser was scrapped.

The city is also asking Judge Shuffield to grant it governmental immunity.

The city is represented by Senior Assistant City Attorney Quentin Price.

The Brocatos are represented by attorney Tommy Yeates of the Moore Landrey law firm.

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