Civil lawsuit ends, Lake County, others found not liable
A Lake County jury found Lake County, Lake County Sheriff Don Bell, several officers with the Lake County Sheriffs’ office and private citizen Drew Hoel not liable in a civil lawsuit brought by a man whose hearing is impaired and communicates through sign language.
Larry Martinez and his wife Lauri filed the suit alleging that Martinez was not provided an interpreter when he was arrested for suspicion of DUI on July 31, 2016. Martinez alleged that his wife can translate for him, but that he was separated from her when he was detained. Martinez alleges that he was tackled by Drew Hoel at the scene of his arrest and that detention staff slammed him to the floor and knocking him unconscious while handcuffed at the Lake County jail, a use of excessive force.
The public record shows Martinez’s BAC at .288, three and-a-half times past that legal limit. In their verdict, the jury found Martinez partly culpable for his own injuries. Lake County, Sheriff Don Bell, Hoel and other named as respondents were found not liable on all counts.
Martinez was represented by attorney Jason Williams with the law firm Datsopoulos, MacDonald & Lind out of Missoula. Lake County was represented by Maureen Lennon with the Montana Association of Counties (MACO). She was assisted by former Lake County Attorney Mitch Young, who is currently an attorney for MACO according to Lake County Commissioner Bill Barron.
Martinez was seeking punitive and compensatory damages as well as interest, attorney fees and any further relief deemed fair by the court.
The trial began in District at Polson Tuesday September 3 with Judge Elizabeth Best out of Flathead County presiding. The jury deliberated for about three hours before delivering their verdict late in the afternoon September 6.