A month after a federal jury found them liable for falsely arresting and using excessive force against a 67-year-old Brookfield man in 2016, two Brookfield police officers have asked for a new trial, arguing the verdict was incompatible with the facts of the case, that the plaintiff filed his case too late, that punitive damages awarded were excessive or completely unwarranted and that compensatory damages weren’t supported by the evidence.
Andrew Lowry, who retired from the force in 2017 as a result of an injury he sustained during the August 2016 arrest of Brookfield resident Rogelio Valdez, and Rafael Alvarado, now a Brookfield police lieutenant, filed the motion for a new trial in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Jan. 6. Valdez has until Jan. 28 to file a response to the motion.
In December, a jury sided with Valdez and awarded him $160,000 total. Of that figure, $75,000 was for compensatory damages. In addition the jury awarded $75,000 in punitive damages against Lowry and $10,000 in punitive damages against Alvarado.
Brookfield Police Chief Michael Kuruvilla indicated after the verdict that the village’s risk management agency, which is responsible for paying those damages, would seek to have the decision overturned or amended.
“From the beginning of this lawsuit, the village has fully supported our officers and believe they conducted themselves appropriately,” Kuruvilla told the Landmark last month. “While we respect the jury and the process, we are disappointed in the verdict and believe that it was simply unsupported based on the evidence presented.”
In their motion for a new trial, the officers argue it makes no sense that the jury found that Alvarado had probable cause to arrest Valdez while Lowry didn’t and that the $75,000 in punitive damages against Lowry was outrageous considering Lowry suffered a debilitating, career-ending injury while Valdez apparently did not realize he had suffered a broken toe during the incident for two weeks.
“The award of punitive damages against Officer Lowry, in this case, is literally adding insult to injury which, unlike Plaintiff’s claimed injury, was immediately known and treated after an ambulance transport from Plaintiff’s apartment building,” the motion for a new trial states.
As for the $10,000 in punitive damages awarded as a result of Alvarado’s actions, the motion for a new trial states no damages should have been awarded at all, since Alvarado was attempting to quickly remove Valdez from “an increasingly volatile and unpredictable domestic dispute involving several intoxicated family members” and that his actions did “not demonstrate an evil intent or callous indifference to [Valdez’s] rights.”
The officers also argue that the $75,000 in compensatory damages was “monstrously excessive,” far outstripping the $26,489 Valdez was charged for care of his broken toe by the V.A. hospital or any loss of liberty Valdez claimed to have suffered.
The motion also argues the court erred by allowing Valdez to file the original complaint, because the statute of limitations had expired and because Valdez had not diligently pursued filing the civil suit.