Earle won’t settle inmate lawsuit

Ctiy prepared to fight injury claim

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

Earle is still investigating claims by an inmate that he was injured while being transported to the county lockup when an Earle police officer rear ended a vehicle, but is not about to offer a settlement. “We’re not ready to make any kind of offer on that,” city attorney Davis Loftin said. “Certainly not $50,000.” Dewayne Buntin was in custody in the back seat on July 31 when the officer apparently hit a vehicle in front which had stopped suddenly at a yield sign on Hwy. 149 and 64. The incident was investigated by Arkansas State Police which found that the police officer was talking to Buntin at the time and was distracted when he rear ended the car in front. The report noted, however, that there was no damage to either vehicle and that the vehicle which the officer rear ended had previous damage to the brake light which made it difficult to see that it had stopped. No paramedics were called to the scene and it is unclear whether Buntin reported any injury at the time. Buntin did, however, see a doctor and according to medical records received physical therapy with Delta CrossRidge Community Hospital and Delta Orthopedics Sports Medicine. Buntin’s attorney sent the city a letter on Dec. 10 offering to settle for $50,000. Loftin told the city council that he was still trying to get the medical records from the jail to see whether Buntin was treated. “I’m checking but haven’t gotten to the right person yet,” Loftin said. “I’m not sure he asked (for medical treatment) at the time he got to the jail or not. All we know is what the state trooper said — that he did not have any injuries and did not request transport at the time.” Councilman Kenneth Cross asked Loftin what he planned to do next. “Do we need to wait on his attorney,” Cross asked. Loftin said the city hasn’t been served with a lawsuit. All they have is a letter from his attorney requesting a settlement. “I’m not sure there is a necessity,” Loftin said. “He hasn’t filed a lawsuit. And he hasn’t even given us all of the medical information.” The medical reports do note constant neck and shoulder pain, but Buntin did not see a doctor until mid-August. The medical bills also only add up to $1,000. Loftin said he will continue to try and get the records, but said the city should not make any kind of offer to settle. “There is no information that he suffered any injury at the time of the accident,” Loftin said. “We’re not going to make an offer on that.”

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