A man who authorities say drunkenly wrecked his pickup truck and was sprawled injured on a road before being twice run over by another intoxicated driver isn't having much luck suing two law enforcers he claims failed to protect him.
The St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a lower court's ruling to throw out Michael Dodd's lawsuit against Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper Steven Jones and Lawrence County sheriff's deputy Mike Thorn, affirming that it lacked merit.
By witness accounts, according to the 8th Circuit's ruling, Dodd "had way more than enough to drink" and "was pretty drunk" when he fell off a bar stool at the Route 66 Tavern in southwestern Missouri's Lawrence County early Dec. 29, 2002, just moments before the bar's workers tossed him out for breaking a beer mug.
Soon after Dodd drove away, the appellate court wrote, three other patrons of the tavern happened upon Dodd's truck partly in a ditch along a county road, with Dodd sprawled half-conscious on the pavement. Two passers-by tended to Dodd and called emergency personnel, covering him with cloth to keep him warm.
Jones and Thorn responded within minutes, parking with their headlights on and emergency lights flashing. Fearing that Dodd may have a spinal injury, they kept him there as Jones tried to read Dodd's blood-alcohol content on a portable breath-testing device.
Minutes later, when another pickup truck approached, Jones waved his arms and flashlight to warn that driver about the crash site. But the motorist, with a blood-alcohol content authorities say later tested at twice the state's legal threshold for drunkenness, hit Dodd and then that victim's truck, according to the 8th Circuit's ruling.
Jones and Thorn, with weapons drawn, ordered the motorist to stop, but the driver shifted his truck into reverse and ran over Dodd again, stopping only when Jones rapped on the driver's-side window, the 8th Circuit found.
That driver was arrested for careless and imprudent driving, though the status of those charges was not clear Tuesday.
Before Dodd was rushed to the hospital, Jones again tried to assess Dodd's blood-alcohol level and pressed the device close to the unresponsive man's lips. Testing Dodd's normal exhalation, Jones said he got "plenty of air to get a reading" well above .08 _ the state's legal limit of drunkenness _ and placed Dodd under arrest for driving while intoxicated.
At Jones' request, a paramedic took a blood sample from Dodd to be tested for alcohol and drugs.
Dodd, 40, of Billings, Mo., was charged with being a persistent drunken-driver, careless and imprudent driving, and driving with a revoked licenses. Online court records show those charges remain unresolved. He has no listed home telephone number and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In first suing Jones and Thorn, Dodd alleged that the officers failed to protect him from the other motorist by not parking their vehicles or setting out road flares in the direction that that man approached. Dodd also maintained that the extraction of his blood sample was an unconstitutional search and seizure.
In his lawsuit, the 8th Circuit found, Dodd contended that Thorn and Jones "placed him in a worse position than what prevailed before they arrived, and that he was thus subjected to a "state-created danger," with the officers' emergency lights perhaps distracting the driver who ultimately ran over him.
The 8th Circuit called that "too speculative," ultimately finding that "the officers plainly did not act with a purpose to harm Dodd."
Thorn, still a Lawrence County deputy, declined to discuss the matter Tuesday, saying he had not yet seen the ruling. A message left with Jones at his workplace was not immediately returned.