Son battled officers; now mom fights suitGee, ya THINK?
Year after Shingle Springs shootout, deputies seek $8 million from widow
By Dorothy Korber - firstname.lastname@example.org
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 10, 2008
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1
A carved post and a boulder mark the place where Eddie Mies gunned down his dad last year on the family's rustic homestead in Shingle Springs.
Up the hill a little farther, among the dusty pines and chaparral, stands another wooden post and a cairn of smaller rocks. This is where Mies, who was 34, died of bullet wounds from the ensuing gunbattle with El Dorado County deputies.
Three deputies and a police dog also were hit in the firefight that morning; all survived.
The bloody date was June 5, 2007. Karen Mies, staggering under the news that her son had murdered her husband, told a family friend she was grateful for one thing: The wounded deputies were alive.
One year later to the day, two of the deputies filed a civil lawsuit against the widow and the estate of her deceased husband, Arthur, and her son. Officers Jon Yaws and Greg Murphy – both recovered and back at work – each is suing the Mies family for $4 million for emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and punitive damages.
Given her modest circumstances, the 66-year-old hospice nurse says their $8 million claim would be laughable – if the whole situation were not so heartbreaking.
"June 5 was a tragic day for me and my family, and it was a tragic day for the deputies who were injured," Karen Mies said. "We were all victims that day. But this lawsuit is victimizing our family again. What do they want? My husband's dead, my son's dead. Do they want my house and my 10-year-old car?"
In their lawsuit, Yaws and Murphy allege the Mies family was negligent in failing to control their troubled son Eddie, behavior that led to the gunbattle and their injuries. Yaws was wounded in the arm, chest and leg; Murphy was struck once in the leg.
In addition to their physical injuries, the suit alleges the deputies suffered anxiety and humiliation.
Such lawsuits by police officers are highly unusual – and hard to win, according to several experts in tort law. They point to a long-standing legal tenet called "the firefighter's rule," which generally precludes emergency workers injured in the line of duty from suing citizens.
"With the firefighter's rule, the reasoning is that they voluntarily agreed to undertake these risks – they know going in that fighting crime or fighting fires is dangerous," said Julie Davies, a professor at McGeorge School of Law. "Additionally, they are paid well to encounter the risks. They're given a whole packet of benefits to compensate them if they're injured, so allowing them to sue citizens would almost be like double taxation."
Davies said there's another consideration, as well: "If people worry that they might be sued by police officers or firefighters, they might hesitate to call on them for help. And that would be bad public policy."
Read the whole article. I especially liked this embellishment:
The suit, which claims the deputies were the victims of a well-planned ambush, contains this depiction of the shootout's aftermath: "Eddie Mies was found dead in a bunker with a cache of weapons and ammunition, as well as a change of clothes. A survey of the property revealed an elaborate system of bunkers and tunnels."Sweet bleeding jeebus.
This description leaves Karen Mies shaking her head. Her responses: The two weapons he used – a shotgun and a revolver – were guns he owned legally as an adult. The ammunition cache was an old toolbox holding bullets, birdshot and other odds and ends. The change of clothes was a jacket.
As for the bunkers and tunnels, Karen Mies led a walking tour of her 2 1/2 acres. She and Arthur raised their six children here; Eddie, the second youngest, was 2 when they moved in.
It's a typical foothills property – a small blue house on Shingle Road, a garden, several pickup trucks in various states of repair, quiet except for wind chimes and the bark of a distant dog. A neighboring property of similar size recently sold for $250,000.
American flags and patriotic ribbons decorate the fence in support of U.S. troops – Art Mies, who was 71 when he died, was a proud Air Force veteran.
Karen Mies walked past the memorial to her husband at the spot where he was sawing firewood when Eddie shot him in the back. She led the way up the hill, through dead corn that Eddie had planted near the small travel trailer where he was living the last year of his life.
She stopped at a wire fence on her property line and pointed to a shallow depression in the ground.
"There were a couple of holes up here where the kids used to play – they've been here for years," she said. She nodded toward a trail that wound away through the brush. "There are trails like that through the grass. When I read 'tunnels' and 'bunkers' in the lawsuit, I couldn't believe it."