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Tell City, Hagedorn settle lawsuit

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By Vince Luecke

Attorney will receive $20,000 from city's insurance carrier

TELL CITY - A civil lawsuit filed last year against Tell City and two of its police officers has been settled in U.S. District Court.

Tell City attorney Michael H. Hagedorn will receive $20,000 from Cincinnati Insurance under terms of the settlement signed May 27 by Judge Richard Young. Hagedorn filed his case Aug. 24, naming as defendants the city of Tell City and police-department officers John Allen and Marty Haughee.

City Attorney James Tyler, announcing the settlement at last Monday's meeting of the Tell City Board of Public Works and Safety, said the settlement was initiated by the city's insurance carrier after taking into account the legal fees it would have had to pay to see the case to trial. Tyler said legal bills would have exceeded the amount of the settlement.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, Tyler said, meaning it can't be resurrected and was made with no admission of wrongdoing by the city or its officers.

No city money is involved in the settlement, he said.

Cincinnati Insurance had covered legal fees, hiring Evansville attorney Keith Sermersheim to represent the city and its officers. The case was assigned to Young but had been referred to Magistrate William Hussman Jr., who requested a meeting to discuss a possible settlement, Tyler said.

City attorney since Jan. 1, he attended the settlement conference on behalf of the city.

"Both sides presented their views on what the evidence (in a trial) would show," Tyler said. "The insurance company reached a figure agreeable to both parties. Both sides were not particularly satisfied, which probably means it was a good compromise."

In his complaint, Hagedorn alleges the two officers committed trespass and residential entry and damaged his personal property Aug. 27, 2005. He also claims they falsely accused him of criminal conduct and violated his state and federal constitutional rights.

A tort notice sent to the city stated Michael Hagedorn's version of events on that day, when he was arrested for domestic violence after allegedly injuring Ronda Hagedorn, his wife at the time.

Hagedorn alleges that Ronda Hagedorn made false charges against him to police and that Allen and Haughee drove to Hagedorn's residence at 2404 Pestalozzi St. in Tell City.

Hagedorn alleges that Ronda Hagedorn asked Allen to telephone her when her husband had been arrested.

Allen and Haughee didn't find Michael Hagedorn at the home and Allen allegedly called Ronda Hagedorn and told her police had not located her husband.

Hagedorn then alleges Barbara Etienne and Pat Kanneberg, friends of Ronda Hagedorn, arrived at his home, broke in and removed items. Both women were also named as defendants in the suit.

Michael Hagedorn later arrived at the home and was placed in custody, the suit states. He claims Allen and Haughee refused to stop the women from removing items from the home and placing them into a moving van.

Hagedorn also alleges the two officers also entered the structure without his permission. At one point, Hagedorn allegedly asked the officers to drive him to his law office on Main Street so he could show them a copy of a prenuptial agreement, but they refused, the complaint states.

One of the officers, the suit alleged, finally stopped the women from removing any additional items from the house.

A written statement by Michael Hagedorn's son and attorney, Walter R. Hagedorn II, argued some of Tyler's statements last week were misleading. Walter Hagedorn said the city, had it judged its case that strong, could have rejected the settlement agreed to by its insurance carrier.

"In settlement of cases of this nature, it is customary and usual for defendants like Allen and Haughee to disclaim wrongdoing and liability despite settlement of the case. Insurance companies under contracts of liability coverage with insureds always retain the right to control litigation and settlement of claims as a condition of insurance coverage, which is what happened in this case," Walter Hagedorn wrote.

"Officers Allen and Haughee and the city of Tell City signed the documents agreeing to settle the case. The officers and the city had the option not to agree and to proceed without the insurance company providing and paying for a defense, and a judgment, if one was entered against them."

Walter Hagedorn said the settlement amount was not important to his client. What is important, he said, is that police officers be accountable for their actions.

"The case was brought to demonstrate that police officers may not violate an individual's constitutional or statutory rights without being held accountable for their actions," Walter Hagedorn said.

The conduct of the two officers, he added, "should not be taken as a negative reflection on the Tell City Police Department's overall performance and service to the community."

"Michael's purpose in filing the case has been accomplished and the conduct of Tell City Police Officers Allen and Haughee were appropriately addressed through the judicial process," he said.