Woman wrongfully arrested may get $250,000 from city

Monday, April 5, 2010 at 1:05pm

The arrest of a woman wrongfully accused of forgery during a warrant sweep operation in 2006 could dock Metro taxpayers more than $250,000 in legal costs.

The Metro Council is set to consider a resolution Tuesday night that would award Paula Milligan and her husband $250,000, and costs not to exceed $25,000, to settle a suit filed after multiple mistakes by Metro police clerks led to the woman’s arrest.

In 2005, Nashville police issued a warrant for forgery against a North Carolina woman named Paula Rebecca Staps, whom they believed had married into the name Milligan. But when a police department clerk entered the name in the system, the search led to a different Paula Milligan, who had received a traffic ticket in 2001.

“If the clerk had cross-checked the demographic information, which is required by MNPD policy, he would have seen that the Ms. Milligan in the database was not the same Ms. Milligan for whom the warrant had been issued,” the resolution reads.

The mistake led to her being handcuffed in October 2006 as part of a special operation. Upon her arrest, police had an opportunity to rectify the problem when the arresting officer radioed the warrants division to confirm Milligan’s date of birth.

But according to the resolution, “The warrants clerk, apparently without searching for the warrant, immediately confirmed that the warrant was still outstanding. Had the clerk followed policy and looked at the warrant, she would have noticed the birth date provided by the officer did not match the information on the warrant.”

Milligan was taken to a mobile booking area at LP Field, where a television crew covering the operation greeted her. She was later broadcast being placed in police car. In total, Milligan spent seven hours in custody. 

The suit filed in federal court by Milligan and her husband Monty contends the arrest violated her civil rights and the state’s tort liability through negligence, false imprisonment, and negligent infliction of emotional address. 

According to the suit, Milligan suffered severe emotional distress, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and still feels extreme anxiety when she sees the police.

The Metro Department of Law recommended a payment of $195,000 to Ms. Milligan, $55,000 to Mr. Milligan, and $25,000 in other costs after it determined a “judge would award more on the state law claims than the amount of the settlement.”

The warrant clerk received a four-day suspension for his error, while the Metro Police data-entry clerk resigned in the aftermath of the mistake. 

10 Comments on this post:

By: house_of_pain on 4/5/10 at 11:21

Way to go, Metro...

By: michael thomas on 4/5/10 at 11:29

I do not fault the lady, i fault metro. Metro has cost tax payers a lot of money lately. How can nashville get ahead doing things like this to keep tax payers spending more. Metro wants this and that and this, what about what the tax payer wants, that we pay these taxes. If this continues they will not have to worry about convention centers and schools and ball stadiums. There will be enough people leaving nashville where it is more committed to watching the budget.

By: NewYorker1 on 4/5/10 at 3:34

LMAO! I hate cops. They should all be fired and their future wages garnished to cover the cost of their mistakes. We, the taxpayers, should not have to pay this bill.

By: Chris72 on 4/5/10 at 4:13

@ NewYorker1

Ummm, duh maybe try actually reading the article. Wasn't the cop's fault, was the fault of the two clerks that were apparantly too lazy or whatever to do their job the right way.

By: sidneyames on 4/6/10 at 6:06

You know what? I think that there are 50 hundred John Smith's; Paul Davis; and there are numerous Sidney Ames. If the police make a mistake, it can be fixed. Suing is not the right way to do that. Mistakes happen. Sh## happens! Get over it lady. Suing is the reason our insurance costs are so high. NewYorker, please, hate them all you want. But when you're in a car crash, or a mugger robs you, don't call the cops. Call Mrs. or Mr. Milligan.

"you people' who hate cops, seem to not hate them during a time you need protection. Hmmmmm. What kind of double standard is that?

By: dustywood on 4/6/10 at 6:27

Perhaps if the lady did not cause herself to be issued a traffic ticket in the first place? Hind site is always better. But many folks are caught up innocently because of others mistakes, or lack of care. But they do not sue. Would I be upset to be publically traumatized, on TV, etc? You bet I would. Maybe a PUBLIC appoligy showing the woman and the police/ clerks should be televised from LP field as well. I always have felt that the best way to impress on someone not to make the same error again, is having them face the public, too.

By: Redactor on 4/6/10 at 9:48

This isn't the fault of the arresting officers, aka "cops", it's the fault of clerks.

By: kennyj on 4/6/10 at 11:13

dustywood--go back and read the article. It was a different Paula Milligan that got the citation. he warrant was issued in 2005, not for an outstanding citation, police believed a woman wanted for forgery to have married into Milligan (dumb assumption to begin with). Mistake started in 2005 arrested in 2006 and the mistake continued. Yeah, she deserves to be compensated.

The taxpayers may pay for it indirectly as Metro may see a small increase in premiums. This is why Metro buys insurance---they're going to pay, not taxpayers.

newyorker1--sounds like you'd be much better in new york than here.

By: govskeptic on 4/6/10 at 11:22

It's the system. I'm sure the arresting officer on the warrant was told by this lady that they had made a mistake (of course,
they all say that) but he could also have been a little more
prudent in checking things out for her. The law department folds like a puppy when these type cases come up as well.

By: waycool1 on 4/7/10 at 1:52

I agree with the woman. I'd have sued Metro for 2 or 3 times that much if I could have.