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Buffalo expected to award settlement to driver who hit cop car

Four years after a Buffalo police car and a Cadillac collided on the city’s East Side, Buffalo is on the verge of awarding the Cadillac driver a $165,000 settlement.

The Common Council is expected to approve the settlement when it meets next week.

The case dates to August 2012, when James McLaughlin, of Buffalo, then 43, was driving west on Walden Avenue and slammed into a police cruiser that ran a stop sign at Koons Avenue.

McLaughlin and officer John Doxbeck, who was driving the police car, were seriously injured.

After McLaughlin filed a lawsuit against the city, the city filed a countersuit against McLaughlin. In the countersuit, the city referred to an official police report in which the investigating officer claimed the marked police car had its overhead lights and sirens on.

But McLaughlin’s attorneys obtained surveillance video of the accident, which showed that the police cruiser did not have its sirens on and that its overhead flashing lights didn’t go on until after the collision.

The city’s counterclaim against McLaughlin was eventually dropped.

McLaughlin is satisfied with the settlement, said his attorney, John V. Elmore.

McLaughlin suffered back injuries in the accident, but because he had recently had a kidney transplant, he was unable to get surgery or take certain pain medications that would otherwise be ordered, Elmore said.

But by working with chiropractors and physical therapists, McLaughlin has made “substantial recovery,” Elmore said.

Doxbeck was out of work for a while after the accident but was able to return to work, Elmore said.

Elmore said the settlement comes just as the case was about to go to trial.

“They finally offered some money in the case,” he said of the city. “This is something that should have been resolved years ago.”

Elmore said he went to the scene of the accident the day after it occurred and spoke to a garage owner whose surveillance camera captured the accident on tape. The garage owner showed Elmore the scenes recorded on the camera itself, and he told Elmore the surveillance tape was turned over to Buffalo police, according to Elmore.

But Elmore said when he asked police for the surveillance tape, he was told it didn’t exist.

It took a court order, Elmore said, before police turned over the tape, which proved the police department’s accident report was incorrect.

Elmore praised Doxbeck, the officer involved, who acknowledged his mistake during the legal proceedings, Elmore said.

“He was as honest and truthful as they come,” Elmore said. “He was injured in the accident. He wasn’t the one who filled out the false report.”

Doxbeck was responding to an emergency when the accident occurred but was working in a section of the city he’s not normally assigned to that day and wasn’t familiar with the streets, according to Elmore.

“He was unfamiliar with the area and didn’t turn his lights and sirens on,” Elmore said.

Elmore also said the city Law Department’s attorney was working hard to get the issue resolved.

The city attorney wasn’t aware of the surveillance tape until the police department was forced to turn it over to McLaughlin’s lawyers, Elmore said.

But Elmore was critical of the police unit that investigated the case, presented a false report, then initially kept the information from McLaughlin’s attorney, and apparently city attorneys as well, according to Elmore.

“I don’t want to point fingers at any individual in the police department,” Elmore said.

Timothy A. Ball, the city’s corporation counsel, declined comment on the case, saying city policy is to not comment on pending litigation. The case is considered pending litigation until the settlement is approved by the city, he said.

The Common Council is expected to approved the settlement Tuesday, then forward it to Mayor Byron W. Brown for his review.

email:sschulman@buffnews.com