Woman sues town of Hadley: She claims cops broke her arm

  • FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS  FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS 

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2019 2:58:54 PM
Modified: 8/2/2019 2:58:39 PM

HADLEY — A Chicopee woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the town of Hadley, two Hadley police officers and an Amherst police officer seeking $500,000 in damages related to an incident in which her arm was broken while she was being placed under arrest in August 2016.

The lawsuit on behalf of Tiffany A. Berry, filed by Easthampton attorney Alfred P. Chamberland in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Wednesday, seeks a jury trial related to the physical, emotional and financial distress she claims to have suffered after being “subjected to an unlawful detention without reasonable suspicion.” The complaint also cites excessive force and police brutality and an arrest made without probable cause.

Chamberland said the lawsuit comes after Berry, on June 27, 2018, issued a letter of presentment pursuant to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act to Hadley’s insurer, MIIA Member Services, but there was no effort to resolve the case.

“We would like to try to work this out with the town,” Chamberland said, observing that a jury trial could take 18 months to two years to resolve.

According to the lawsuit, which names Hadley Police Sgt. Douglas Costa and Officer Michael A. Romano and Amherst Officer Jessica Damon, Berry was driving a vehicle on Route 9 that turned into the parking lot at Applebee’s Grill + Bar, 100 Westgate Center Drive, at 4:11 a.m. on Aug. 28.

Romano observed the stopped vehicle and approached it, asking Berry to provide her license and registration, which she did, the complaint states. The lone passenger in the vehicle agreed to exit the vehicle, but Berry, whom Romano observed in the complaint had red, bloodshot eyes, refused to exit or comply with a request to take field sobriety tests.

The complaint alleges that Costa, who arrived a short time later, and Romano then undertook the use of a “pain compliance technique” to force Berry out of the vehicle, using a “hyper-flexing wrist lock” to inflict pain, and then used an “arm-bar takedown.” Romano also allegedly informed Berry that she didn’t have the right to refuse a field sobriety test, according to the complaint.

Berry was placed under arrest for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, second offense, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, charges that the complaint states were later dropped or dismissed, or for which she was found not guilty.

Damon came to the scene to assist with pat-frisking Berry.

After being placed in handcuffs, Berry complained of pain and was brought to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, where the complaint states that X-rays revealed she had a broken ulna, the bone that extends from the elbow to the pinky finger.

The complaint alleges violations of the Fourth and 14 amendments, the right to bodily integrity and the right to be free from excessive force by law enforcement, and that Berry has suffered more than just the physical pain, including lost wages, medical expenses and humiliation and embarrassment.

Hadley Town Administrator David Nixon said he didn’t have a comment on the lawsuit, observing that it has been referred to the town’s insurance attorney to handle. 

Amherst Town Manager Paul Bockelman said he couldn’t comment on the lawsuit until he sees the complaint.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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