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.