Doc sues Harris Co., sheriff's deputies after traffic stop inflicts injuries to spinal cord

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jun. 5, 2013, 1:30pm

HOUSTON - Harris County and a few of its sheriff's deputies are named in a lawsuit filed by a physician who claims a 2011 traffic stop resulted in injuries to his spinal cord.

Dr. William Windham sued the county; deputies T.R. Pasket, M. Dunn, Clint Greenwood; and their unnamed supervisors in Houston federal court on May 29.

Windham says they discriminated against him because he has congenital cervical stenosis.

Congenital cervical stenosis is a condition that causes the head to bend slightly down.

The suit shows Windham developed the disorder before the defendants pulled him over on May 30, 2011, as he was leaving an auto dealership on the North Freeway in Houston.

Windham bumped a car in front of him, and though there was no damage, the other driver mistook him holding his head in an unusual position for being drunk and called the police.

Pasket was the first to arrive at the scene.

Windham presented the deputy with a doctor's letter detailing the stenosis.

He read the letter and then called for a traffic officer, assuring the complainant "nobody would make him extend his neck."

The suit explains the event took a long time since the officer, Dunn, came to the scene approximately two hours later.

It adds Windham waited longer for Dunn to administer the standard field sobriety tests.

The first part is a horizontal gaze nystagmus test which requires an officer to look closely into a person's eyes for certain movements by watching the subject track a pen.

Because Dunn was a foot taller than Windham, Pasket informed his colleague the plaintiff could not extend his neck to look at the pen.

Dunn reportedly remarked he "did not care" as well as demanded "in an accusatory way" for Windham comply.

Fearing resistance would result in going to jail, the complainant tried to cooperate even though the process inflicted "great" pain to his neck, the suit says.

Windham says his spinal cord was harmed to where he failed the tests, but authorities nonetheless released him.

A friend fetched the doctor and took him home.

The plaintiff further asserts he went to the hospital, where he underwent a seven-hour operation to rebuild his neck.

Post-surgery embolism placed him in the intensive care unit for ten days.

Sometime during or after the hospitalization, Windham apparently had to learn how to walk and use his hands again.

He insists he is permanently disabled in addition to needing physical therapy and constant medical attention.

The respondents are ultimately accused of failing to properly address Windham's internal affairs department complaint, the investigation of which Greenwood purportedly closed.

Windham says the county "lacks a policy and the training of deputies regarding a reasonable accommodation whereby disabled people who cannot extend their neck(s) can do SFSTs without extending their neck(s)."

A jury trial is requested.

Attorney Randall L. Kallinen of the Law Office of Randall L. Kallinen PLLC in Houston is representing the plaintiff.

Case No. 4:13-CV-1576

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