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Adams Stepner Attorneys Secure Trial Victory for Erlanger Police Officer

Attorneys, Claire E. Parsons, and Olivia F. Amlung, secured a trial victory last month in the Eastern District of Kentucky for their client, Erlanger Police Officer, Sgt. Kimberly Klare, in the matter of Harris v. Klare. At issue in the case was the conduct of Sgt. Klare during the detention of Plaintiff, Brittany Harris, during a detention that occurred on May 22, 2014. Though Sgt. Klare was uninvolved in the initial stop of the Harris’ vehicle or the subsequent arrest of Harris’ mother, she was sued for her role in escorting Harris to the restroom, per her request. Pursuant to standard policy, Sgt. Klare conducted a brief consent search of Ms. Harris before escorting her to the restroom. Prior to doing so, Sgt. Klare requested and obtained Harris’ verbal consent to conduct the search. In her lawsuit, however, Ms. Harris alleged that Klare had not in fact obtained her consent and that she did not feel free to refuse consent for the search. Originally, Judge David L. Bunning had granted qualified immunity and summary judgment to Sgt. Klare on the grounds that no jury could reasonably conclude that Harris had not provided consent for the search. On appeal, however, the Sixth Circuit reversed and found that issues of fact existed as to the provision of consent and, even though Sgt. Klare did not initiate the stop or detention of Ms. Harris, whether the length of Ms. Harris’ detention made her unable to voluntarily provide consent. After a presentation of proof at trial, Judge Bunning granted directed verdict to Sgt. Klare on the detention theory since the proof clearly showed that the basis for Ms. Harris’ detention continued to exist with the escort to the restroom and consent search occurred. As such, the only issues submitted to the Jury for decision were (1) whether Ms. Harris consented to the search; and (2) whether the search was reasonable. After a brief deliberation, the Jury concluded unanimously that Ms. Harris had in fact consented to the search by Sgt. Klare. As a result, Judgment was entered in Sgt. Klare’s favor. Ms. Harris did not appeal the action to the Sixth Circuit so the Judgment in Sgt. Klare’s favor is now final.

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