Crash victim's family files $15M complaint over police chase
Claim says law enforcement acted irresponsibly
KINGMAN - The April 22 law enforcement pursuit involving Robert James Dodd that ended in the death of Linda Chevalier should have been terminated long before Dodd allegedly ran a stop sign and crashed into her car.
So said attorneys for her family, who seek $15.2 million in a claim filed against the state of Arizona, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mohave County and the city of Kingman.
Phoenix attorney Joel Robbins and Kingman attorney Douglas D. Sutherland represent David Chevalier, who married Linda more than 46 years ago, and his adult daughters, Denise Chevalier-Huffer, Karen Player and Suzanne Brewer. David Chevalier is a former Mohave County deputy treasurer.
"Linda Chevalier's death was caused by the unlawful, unreasonable, unauthorized negligent acts of [DPS] Sgt. Ernie Severson and other unidentified employees of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, GIITEM task force, the Mohave County Sheriff's Department and the Kingman Police Department, all acting within the scope of their employment," reads the document.
In support of the claim, the attorneys make a number of points:
Each of the three agencies had run-ins with Dodd - "an individual known to flee law enforcement pursuits at high speeds."
They chased Dodd into more densely populated areas from where the pursuit began north of Kingman; continued to chase him despite the fact Dodd was driving fast into oncoming traffic; and pursuing officers knew Dodd was likely to drive fast into oncoming traffic.
They failed to terminate the pursuit when it went from a rural area to a more populated area. Traffic conditions at 5 p.m. shortly after the pursuit began also warranted ending the chase.
Pursuing Dodd in an unmarked law enforcement vehicle, whether or not lights were activated, was another act of alleged negligence.
The attorneys also claim the officers were inadequately trained and that all three agencies failed to adopt reasonable pursuit policies. And in a dig at officers from each agency, they also said law enforcement failed to devote adequate resources to capturing Dodd on previous occasions, including a foot chase.
Justifying the $15.2 million the family seeks for Chevalier's death has as much to do with how she lived as how she died.
"She was a saint," said Robbins. "I mean, she was an absolute saint. How many people can you say that about?"
The documents note that Chevalier won the Kingman Women Making History award in the religion category in 2013, her longtime missionary and fundraising work, her devotion to St. John's United Methodist Church and other acts of selflessness she committed throughout her life, the last 28 years of which she spent in Kingman.
The document that was provided to the defendants is not a formal lawsuit, but rather the opening salvo in the process.
"There will be a lawsuit," said Robbins. "It's a state requirement to file a notice of claim."
Robbins, a prominent civil rights and personal injury attorney who built a reputation by taking on and winning against controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio over the treatment of inmates, said the lawsuit will be filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, but it's possible the case will be moved to federal jurisdiction.
The lawsuit could be filed in January.
"We have to wait 60 days," said Robbins. "They have 60 days to respond and as of today [Monday] they have about 40 days left."
On the criminal side, Dodd, 42, faces roughly two dozen felony charges in four separate cases. The most serious - second-degree murder - regards Chevalier's death.
His next court appearance is set for Dec. 16.