An elderly couple injured when an on-duty Spokane police officer crashed into their vehicle in 2020 filed a lawsuit Monday.
James and Lois Collins were driving near MultiCare Deaconess Hospital at Lincoln Street and Fifth Avenue when a Spokane police vehicle sped into the intersection and collided with their car.
Officer Michael Brunner was driving twice the speed limit – at least 60 mph – seconds before he T-boned the Collinses’ vehicle, injuring them both, according to a Washington State Patrol investigation.
James Collins fractured his ribs and collar bone, and sustained damage to his kidneys, according to the lawsuit. Lois Collins had head and neck pain, along with a cut on her scalp that required staples.
Spokane Police then ticketed James Collins, who was driving, for failing to stop at the intersection’s stop sign.
The incident began after Brunner cleared a robbery call just before 7 a.m. March 25, 2020.
Brunner was driving back to the police department at the end of his shift while messaging with another officer on his computer, according to the WSP investigation.
Brunner swerved around another car and accelerated into the intersection of Fifth and Lincoln, hitting the Collinses, who were traveling at 2 mph in comparison to Brunner’s 65.
Following the incident and investigation, Brunner was charged with felony vehicular assault.
He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor reckless driving in 2021 as part of a plea agreement. He was sentenced to a 364-day suspended jail term, which put Brunner on unmonitored probation for a year.
Brunner returned to work at the Spokane Police Department following the plea agreement, Julie Humphreys, a department spokesperson, confirmed.
An internal affairs investigation by the Spokane Police Department found Brunner violated three department policies. He was given a four-week unpaid suspension, Humphreys said.
Brunner’s peace officer certification remains under review by the Washington state Criminal Justice Training Commission, the agency that licenses law enforcement.
The Collinses had previously filled claims against the city and said through attorneys they planned to file a lawsuit shortly after Brunner’s conviction. Their attorney at the time alleged the Spokane Police Department tried to cover up Brunner’s fault in the accident by ticketing the Collinses.
The couple retained a different law firm to file the current lawsuit.
In their lawsuit, the Collinses are asking for the city to cover their medical care and treatment, along with their attorneys fees, among other damages.