National Roundup

Pennsylvania

Man wins $269 in lawsuit over use of stun gun

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A federal jury says Pittsburgh police wrongfully used a Taser to get a man out of his car, but say he is entitled only to $269 to cover his medical bill.

Twenty-nine-year-old Robert Rucker, of Penn Hills, had been seeking at least $75,000 in punitive damages. Rucker had said in his lawsuit that he was complying with police orders when Officer Neal Marabello used the stun gun on him in 2006.

The jury on Thursday agreed that the officer used excessive force. But the panel rejected claims by Rucker, who says he developed health problems and lost his job as a result.

Police suspected Rucker had hit his girlfriend with his car. He says she jumped on it during an argument and fell off.

Indiana

Man charged in scoutmaster's death: no lawyer

PERU, Ind. (AP) -- The man charged with fatally stabbing a 76-year-old scoutmaster during a hike in northern Indiana told a judge that he wanted nothing done in his defense.

Twenty-two-year-old Shane Golitko of Bunker Hill told a Miami County judge during his initial hearing Thursday that he doesn't want a defense attorney and doesn't want to defend himself. The Peru Tribune says the prosecutor asked that a public defender be appointed because of the seriousness of the charges.

Golitko is charged with murder in the attack that killed Arthur Anderson on Sunday on the Nickel Plate Trail in Bunker Hill.

Bunker Hill Town Marshal Shane Durham tells the Kokomo Tribune that Golitko's mother said the attack happened after they fought in their nearby home over whether he would take his mental health medication.

Colorado

Agents seek immunity from suit over arrest

DENVER (AP) -- Two Secret Service agents on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to rule that they are immune from a lawsuit filed by a Colorado man who claims they violated his First Amendment rights when he was arrested for confronting then-Vice President Dick Cheney.

Steven Howards was arrested in the resort town of Beaver Creek in 2006 after he touched Cheney on the arm and told him his Iraq War policies were "disgusting." The lawsuit claims that agents Virgil D. "Gus" Reichle Jr. and Dan Doyle arrested him in retaliation for criticizing Cheney.

Howards originally sued several agents, claiming they violated his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as his right to free speech. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled all the agents were immune on the Fourth Amendment claims, and that all the agents except Reichle and Doyle were immune on the free speech claim.

Sean Gallagher, the agents' attorney, said the appeals court ruling "undermines the ability of Secret Service agents to react quickly and instinctively in the face of potential threats."

"This ruling exposes Secret Service agents to the risk of burdensome litigation and potential personal liability each time they confront a potential threat to the president or vice president," he wrote in a statement.

David Lane, Howards' attorney, said the central issue is why the agents arrested Howards.

"It's our claim that they arrested him for telling the vice president his policies in Iraq were disgusting," Lane said.

"Do we want federal law enforcement out arresting people for their free speech? The answer to that has to be 'No.'"

The agents had said that Howards' contact with Cheney constituted assault. A local prosecutor dropped state charges against him, and no federal charges were filed.

Kansas

Settlement filed in death of KU athletic director

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) -- The family of former Kansas athletic director Bob Frederick has reached a settlement with the last two defendants in a lawsuit filed after Frederick died in a bicycle accident, attorneys for the parties announced Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed after Frederick, 69, died on June 12, 2009, from injuries he suffered when his bicycle hit a hole on a Lawrence street.

Attorneys said the settlement was reached with Black Hills Energy and Concrete Inc. of Lawrence, The Lawrence Journal-World reported. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Frederick's family alleged that Black Hills and contractors were negligent during repair work on pavement near the intersection.

"The Frederick family feels that this resolution has ensured that Black Hills has been held accountable, not just to the family but to the community of Lawrence," said Dave Morantz, an attorney who along with attorney Lynn R. Johnson represented Frederick's family.

In June, the city of Lawrence and another defendant, Underground Systems Construction Inc., were dismissed from the suit without paying any settlement.

Morantz had said depositions in the case revealed the city had no notice of the hole before the accident and had no legal duty to fix it based on an agreement between the city and Black Hills. He also said the person riding with Frederick at the time of the accident testified in a deposition that she did not see a hole in the pavement.

"There's no amount of money that's going to bring back Dr. Frederick or change what happened," Morantz said. "But the family hopes this will prevent similar instances in the future."

"We are obviously saddened by his death," and the matter is resolved, said Marc Erickson, an attorney representing Black Hills Energy. He said the company was not admitting fault or liability in the case.

California

Surfer sues maker of board because of gash

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A surfer has filed a product liability lawsuit against a California surfboard manufacturer because the too-sharp fin sliced his leg.

The Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed Wednesday by recreational surfer Tom Gregg contends the surfboard, fins and their component parts are unsafe for their intended use.

The Los Angeles Times says the Channel Islands surfboard fin severed muscles in his leg when he wiped out off the coast of France in 2009.

Channel Islands Surfboards general manager Scott Anderson says it's the first product liability suit he's heard of in his 20 years at the Carpinteria-based firm.

Channel Islands, acquired five years ago by snowboard maker Burton Corp., sells boards at more than 400 stores worldwide.

Published: Mon, Aug 29, 2011