A federal jury has ruled in favor of a repo man who fended off an attack as he tried to tow a luxury sedan from an exclusive Liberty Lake home.
No money was awarded following the two-week trial that took three years to reach a jury.
The lawsuit was brought by Franklin Duncan, who suffered a broken ring finger, had his face pepper-sprayed and was eventually shocked with a stun gun by Liberty Lake police after he interfered with repo man Victor Grant in his driveway.
Duncan sued Grant and police seeking money for medical bills and emotional distress. The episode unfolded Feb. 10, 2010, on his property within a gated community along MeadowWood Golf Course.
Jurors cleared Liberty Lake police officers, including Chief Brian Asmus, from any wrongdoing in the incident.
Michael McFarland, attorney for Liberty Lake, praised jurors for making the correct decision based on the evidence presented.
“I believe that they should not have had to face trial, but should have been commended for taking very reasonable and necessary actions,” McFarland said of his clients.
Grant, the only party in the case present in the mostly empty courtroom of U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice on Wednesday afternoon, shared a congratulatory handshake with McFarland after the verdict was read. Despite finding he’d been assaulted, jurors did not award Grant any damages.
“We’re just happy with the verdict,” Grant said as he left the courtroom.
Marcia Meade, the attorney for Duncan and his wife, Cynthia, thanked jurors for their patience during the trial, which began Nov. 4.
“Of course they don’t like it,” Meade said of the Duncans’ reaction to the verdict, which was delivered to them over the phone. “But they very strongly believe in the judicial process.”
Wednesday’s verdict ended more than a year of legal wrangling after the Duncans filed a tort claim with the city.
The Duncans tried to show jurors the actions of Asmus and Sgt. Clint Gibson were excessive and caused emotional and physical pain that lingers, affecting Franklin Duncan’s work as a fishing lure patent-holder and sketch artist.
The confrontation between Duncan and Grant was prompted by Duncan’s son Nathaniel’s failure to make timely payments on his 1997 Audi A8 sedan. Nathaniel Duncan told police his payment was 40 days late when his father cut him a check for the delinquent amount. But when Nathaniel emerged from the family’s home along King James Lane, Grant was hooking the car to his tow truck.
Jurors Wednesday accepted Grant’s version of the following events, ruling that Franklin Duncan had snatched the keys from the truck and attempted to choke the repo man before police arrived.
Criminal charges against Duncan were dismissed shortly after the incident, according to court records.