Jury awards $200K in Villegas trial; plaintiff had sought $1.2M

Thursday, August 18, 2011 at 12:40pm

After less than an hour of deliberation Thursday, seven jury members in the Juana Villegas trial awarded the woman $200,000 in compensation — $1 million short of what she sought.

A federal judge ruled in April that Villegas' rights were violated when Davidson County Sheriff’s deputies shackled her before and after childbirth.

Following the jury's decision, Sheriff Daron Hall said the amount awarded, “whether it was a dollar or a million dollars” mattered little because his office and Metro had already decided to appeal an April judgment by U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. that led to Thursday’s outcome.

“When the summary judgment came down, we were going to appeal it anyway, and you can’t appeal until this process is over,” Hall said.

“We’re anxious to get our case heard in the court in Cincinnati,” he added, referring to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

After the trial, Villegas declined to comment. Phillip Cramer, who represented Villegas along with William Harbison and John Farringer IV, called his client a "great and courageous person.”

“The effects of the courts decision from the verdict today will improve communities throughout the country,” Cramer said outside of the courtroom.

Earlier Thursday, Cramer had asked the jury to consider damages of more than $1.2 million — a figure culled from what he said was a mid-range estimated cost of future treatment ($308,000) and compensation ($924,000) for her physical, psychological and emotional distress.

Cramer said Villegas would be able to receive some of the treatment she needs with the $200,000 awarded, and “her family can get back the mother and wife they knew.”

During Thursday morning’s closing arguments, Metro attorney Allison Bussell said the sheriff’s office was not responsible for what was actually causing Villegas’ ongoing pain and suffering. Instead, Bussell argued, the pain — which a psychiatrist has diagnosed as a stressor leading to post-traumatic stress disorder and depression — resulted from Villegas’ stress about her arrest and subsequent fear of being separated from her family.

Bussell argued that Villegas’ emotional distress came in the hour following her arrest when she began to worry about being separated from her family.

On Wednesday, emotions drew Villegas to tears at times on the witness stand, as she recalled being restrained during labor and immediately after giving birth to her son, Gael, three years ago.

The testimony came during questioning on the second day of a trial in U.S. District Court to determine how much money, if any, in damages the jury of four women and three men might award her. 

This week’s trial follows Haynes’ previous ruling in April, in which he found that Davidson County Sheriff’s Office deputies violated Villegas’ civil rights by keeping her shackled for much of the time leading up to, and then after, her childbirth, and also for refusing to allow her the use of a breast pump upon her release from the hospital.

On July 3, 2008, a Berry Hill police officer arrested Villegas, then an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was nine months pregnant at the time, after she failed to produce a driver’s license during a traffic stop. She was later held in jail over the July 4 weekend on a 287(g) immigration hold, only to go into labor late in the evening on July 5.

After Haynes excused the jury Thursday, he felt it necessary to address what he said were statements by the Metro attorneys regarding possible impartiality on his part by excluding certain testimony regarding illegal immigration and Villegas’ possible deportation during this week’s damages trial, for which liability had already been determined.

Haynes cited other cases in which courts acted in a similar fashion, stating that his actions “fall in line” with such cases.

“I am at a loss to understand some of these criticisms,” Haynes said. The day before, he told Metro attorneys, Bussell along with Kevin Klein, that their “conduct in this case has just mystified the court,” referring to their questions and arguments regarding Villegas’ fear of being separated from her family.

Haynes ruled the issue of Villegas’ immigration status wasn’t to be discussed and felt the defense attorneys came too close to crossing that line several times.

Hall defended the approach, saying,  “I’ve been around this 20-something years. I couldn’t be more proud of the attorneys that represented us in this case.”

Bussell declined to comment.

 

 

 

34 Comments on this post:

By: JohnGalt on 8/18/11 at 11:06

If the plaintiff wins damages, as a illegal alien will she be deported and take the money with her? Even though she has lived here illegally for many years, she still needs an interpreter and will that interpreter be able to correctly explain the results of the trial to her?

By: mg357 on 8/18/11 at 11:11

mg357; John, this completely blows your mind. What on earth can Ozment be thinking to ask for $1.2 mil for a criminal that we have been supporting for how long..15 years...........mg

By: JohnGalt on 8/18/11 at 11:39

With a payoff of $200,000 its a good thing the lawyers were working for free since that would not even cover their fees.

By: nashmusic2244 on 8/18/11 at 12:04

Unreal!

Okay, fine the illegal $ 200K for driving without a valid license.

By: William Michael... on 8/18/11 at 12:32

I understand the need for hand cuffs, but why would you shackle a pregnant woman? In any case we now need to deport her, she was arrested for violating the law by operating a motor vehicle with out a valid drivers license and being in the US illegally. How many ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS without valid driver licenses are driving in this country illegally have caused accidents? The taxpayers are now stuck with the bill for this over use of restraints. She would not have been in that situation if she would have LEGALLY IMMIGRATED to the US and had a VALID DRIVERS LICENSE. One would think that after several years she would have at-least learned how to speak English. I guess that would be too much for those chose to violate the law to be held responsible for their own actions ( both law-enforcement and those here in the United States Illegally) .

By: tn.native on 8/18/11 at 12:35

This is not about her status. This is about the law. It's a big pill to swallow but the cops must use common sense and lawful proceedings in detaining any subject.
If this happened to your wife it would be a different story.

By: William Michael... on 8/18/11 at 12:48

To tn.native,

My ex-wife has LEGAL IDENTIFICATION in the form of a VALID DRIVERS LICENSES. Would you feel the same if that woman had hit a child while driving ILLEGALLY? If she had been a LEGAL IMMIGRANT with a VALID DRIVERS LICENSE, then this would have not happened. Both law enforcement and this woman is at fault. I think both parties are equally at fault and BOTH SHOULD BE PUNISHED for breaking the law. What side of the law are you on?

By: woody2 on 8/18/11 at 1:17

Let me guess...she probably drove home after the court hearing.

By: Kosh III on 8/18/11 at 1:59

Regardless of how well she may or may not understand English, any person is entitled to an interpreter. Court proceedings can be very technical and complex: difficult for even a native speaker to understand.
The last thing we need is another lawsuit claiming violation of rights because of language problems.

By: d4deli on 8/18/11 at 2:47

What part of illegal does everyone seem to miss? This woman is in the country illegally. She was caught because she was pulled over and could not produce a driver's license. She has been in this country long enough to produce several offspring, all now US citizens, and we the tax payers have been paying for her to have these babies, feed these babies, and house these babies. Now we are PAYING her $200,000 for her trouble? UNBELIEVABLE!!! I wonder if she will ever bother to attempt to become a legal citizen, or even learn English. I friend of mine who is originally from Mexico and a US citizen says she hears all the time in the Mexican community that Americans are stupid, and they don't like them. They just like to take advantage of them. Apparently, we are more than willing to comply. Sad.

By: woody2 on 8/18/11 at 3:19

As soon as she walked out of the courtroom they should have shackled her and took her to be deported. don't give her a chance to cash the check, who would cash it anyway...she doesn't have any identification. Just sayin'. that's real.

By: left on 8/18/11 at 4:23

Shackle me please! Better chance of winning money from the city than it is winning from the lottery!

By: mg357 on 8/18/11 at 4:27

mg357; woody, chances are that there are creditors waiting in the wings to relieve her of the vast majority of this settlement. Nothing monetary has been settled as of yet.......she could in fact be deported destitute the same way she entered this country. She allegedly has a husband, where was he in all this or is he hiding in plain sight as she was....This is a gross miscarriage of justice..........mg

By: CaptainCatfish on 8/18/11 at 6:27

"I am at a loss to understand some of these criticisms,” Haynes said"

Hmmm.. after the way Haynes messed this up something tells me he is at a loss to understand alot of things. What is this guy doing on the bench?

By: Bellecat on 8/18/11 at 8:47

If she gets the $200 K it should be mandatory that the money be sent directly to her "doctor" for treatment. It should not be allowed to be used for anything else, since her attorney says it will take an estimated cost of $308 K for her future treatment. Any distress she had was about being deported, just as Metro's attorneys tried to introduce.

This illegal, this judge, this jury, this whole case is disgusting. She should not have gotten a penny.

By: Donna Locke on 8/19/11 at 12:40

I hope Medicaid or whatever goes after its reimbursement in this case, the way Medicare goes after elderly WWII combat vets who win SMALL monetary awards in workers' comp cases against Union Carbide. My stepfather's experience.

Americans of course answer to a stricter standard than do illegal aliens.

I don't know who paid for this woman's health care -- she has had several children here -- but illegal aliens can get emergency Medicaid for births and for other things that don't even qualify as emergencies, and their U.S.-born children can be fully covered by, uh, us. This is why many hospitals haven't gone under. We're propping them up, along with anyone who can break into our welfare nation -- even as many Americans go without health care they can't afford.

This woman is a criminal. While law enforcement and corrections officers appeared to be following rules in this case, though I can't speak to that for certain, the woman should not have been encumbered during labor, etc.

I hope she has the next one in Mexico.

By: imdyinhere on 8/19/11 at 5:16

I'm guessing most of you won't be in Church on Sunday.

By: bfra on 8/19/11 at 5:28

I will, what about you?

By: budlight on 8/19/11 at 6:36

After the trial, Villegas declined to comment. Phillip Cramer, who represented Villegas along with William Harbison and John Farringer IV, called his client a "great and courageous person.”

Great and courageous people are people such as the legally here hispanic guy who just risked his life to chase a kidnapper and rescue an 11 year old girl who was snatched from his neighbors yard.

This woman is a parasite. We are supposed to love others and we do, but when they take advantage of us, we don't have to like wht they do. When people are arrested, there are procedures in place to handle them. I am betting that proper procedures were followed. If she wanted a breast pump and special treatment, she should have been taking precautions NOT to be arrested; Precautions such as being legal in this country and having valid drivers license.

It was her CHOICE to be a criminal; no one made her do it.

imdyinhere: Just a note: I will be in church sunday; and I will pray for our country that we can get back to a place where law abiding citizens are not punished by having to pander to and pay criminals our hard earned money. The bible clearly states to "not steal". By breaking into the country (or someone's home), that commandment is being broken.

I hope she has to take her money to Mexico where they will tax it as income.

By: govskeptic on 8/19/11 at 6:46

If this award ever comes to being paid, the first in line for their portion should be the
hospital that took care of the delivery of the child. It would be sure and pure neglect on their part if they don't attempt to get paid by this Plaintiff versus passing this on to the
taxpayers are just eating this cost.

This Judge made his own decision about this case the moment it was assigned to
him. Metro is absolutely correct in deciding to Appeal this case since the moment
Judge Haynes (without a Jury) decided the lady had been liabled. The Federal
Court's of this country just as much as Congress makes a total mockery of our
existing Immigration Laws and creates this total confusion within this gigantic mess
that has no ending!

By: Community-carl-... on 8/19/11 at 6:59

Let me get this straight........

The woman was here illegally, driving without a license, most likely uninsured, and breaking the law, but she is rewarded with a $200,000 judgement? As far as I am concerned, her rights ended whenever she broke the laws of our land by entering and living here illegally.

The "do-gooders" who continue to enable this kind of behavior are a big part of the reason this country is in the current financial mess it's in right now. I have no problem with legal immigrants who make a contribution to our society, but the illegals who, rather than contribute, suck up our precious resources, need to be deported.

By: HenryB on 8/19/11 at 7:27

I understand the frustration people feel about illegal immigration and the toll it takes on public resources. I share those frustrations. It's a public policy nightmare, and one without an effective answer. As much as people on this board and others want to just "ship them all back," that's a foolish and simplistic response to a complex situation. What's more, it just won't work. That said, what happened to this woman was cruel, unusual, even inhumane -- and it was done in the name of Davidson County. I was appalled when I heard about this incident three years ago, and I'm still appalled now. Shackling a woman who's nine-months pregnant. Really? No matter someone's legal status, he or she deserves the respect one human should have for another. Read the red letters in the New Testament. I think she should have been awarded much more, and I think most if not all of that money should have gone to pay physicians, creditors, etc. If there is any left over, she should be allowed to take it with her to Mexico when she's deported.

By: budlight on 8/19/11 at 8:34

I understand the frustration people feel about illegal immigration and the toll it takes on public resources. I share those frustrations. It's a public policy nightmare, and one without an effective answer.

The effective answer is "LEGAL Immigration". It's a simple solution. So simple that the simple minded can't fathom it.

What happened to her is the direct result of her own actions. To every action, there is a consequence.

By: HenryB on 8/19/11 at 9:06

Yes, but I contend she suffered cruel and unusual punishment. That's unconstitutional. Seems to me way too many people are prone to throw out the portions of the Constitution they don't agree with, embrace the ones they do and then declare with patriotic pride the wisdom of the founding fathers. Regardless of whether the woman was from Mars, when our government treats anyone without regard for the Constitution, the government is wrong. It's a simple truth. So simple that simple minds can't fathom it.

By: localboy on 8/19/11 at 2:02

Oooooo, HenryB, r u gonna catch it!

By: bfra on 8/19/11 at 2:56

Henry B - I take it you have never had a baby, if so (smirk) then you would know, a restraint during labor is not cruel & inhuman treatment, if she has conducted herself in a way that it is called for. She was not restrained during the birth! She is a liar, thief, felon, old description "runner" & from the video, a loud, smart mouth. I guess you would have offered her a shot of tequila & some hot tamales, right? BTW wonder were those babies 1-4 daddies are?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/19/11 at 3:53

bud, i think you have your story a bit mixed up. the girl was 6 and the Hispanic guy who saved her was here illegally.

http://www.wsmv.com/story/15297997/immigrant-who-saved-girl-gaining-new-celebrity

By: Blanketnazi2 on 8/19/11 at 3:53

i guess you'll want to shackle him too, huh?

By: Donna Locke on 8/19/11 at 5:14

Amnesty Obama-style is here:

http://www.fairus.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=24343

https://www.numbersusa.com/content/news/august-19-2011/obama-official-illegal-aliens-will-receive-work-permits.html

Wall Street Journal link in the NumbersUSA story.

By: govskeptic on 8/19/11 at 7:26

I could be wrong, but think this jury only consisted of 7 members. No matter the
number it would be interesting to know the ages, occupations, and gender
of our neighbors that come to these type conclusions. Apparently the Judge
had the evidence and other procedures so tied up the City didn't have a chance
in reducing or mitigating the damages under all the restrictions imposed!

By: proudlyproimmigrant on 8/20/11 at 2:11

budlight - Guess what, the New Mexico guy you praised because he's legal? Turns out, not so legal. Guess you're going to want to deport him as well. http://blog.al.com/wire/2011/08/new_mexico_hero_who_saved_girl.html

By: bfra on 8/20/11 at 5:32

proudlyproimmigrant - Already reported once, but what does that have to do with the price of eggs?This is about an ILLEGAL immigrant that broke every law she could, drops babies like a rabbit to get more free social services, plus go watch the video, is arrogant about it.

By: parnell3rd on 8/21/11 at 10:53

Political Correctness: Reward Law breakers with a cash settlement.
If the lady was not a criminal this would not have happened!
Look at all of America's immagrants who come here legally. They went through alot to get here and I'm sure they are grateful. They contribute to our society. Are we all perfect? NO.
But if we break our laws we are punished. If Illegals break the law they are rewarded! Why?
In Ashland City this year an Illegal Immigrant killed a man and seriously injured his daughter in a traffic accident. The illegal immigrant was not even given a ticket for driving without a licence. In Tennessee that is 2 days in jail. What did the THP say. "well if we arrest him, he probly won't show up for his court date, because he is an illegal immigrant"
Taxpayers paid her hospital bills.
Political Correctness is destroying our Country.

By: Nitzche on 8/21/11 at 7:05

...2 wetbacks crossed the rio grand, one says to the other........wow