• Families end lawsuit against the City of Memphis with $400,000 settlement

    By: Greg Coy

    Updated:

    Tonight, two families end a lawsuit against the City of Memphis with a settlement of nearly $400,000.

    They claimed Memphis Police needlessly pursued the driver of a stolen car that crashed into head-on into another car.  

    The collision killed one friend and seriously injured another. The accident happened at the corner of Sam Cooper and Hollywood on March 5, 2017. 

    Memphis Police charged Toukta Southavilay with driving a stolen Lexus from Arkansas and causing the fatal crash. 

    When the lawsuit was filed in March 2018, lawyers for the victims, Jennifer Robinson and Shequita Burks, claimed police had been involved in a high-speed pursuit of the stolen car.  

    When FOX13 interviewed attorney Howard Manis from the Cochran Group of Memphis one year ago, Manis told us "if there would not have been an accident, my clients would still be alive today."

    Attorney Manis and his clients cannot comment on the settlement and its terms. 


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    According to the court papers, the City of Memphis agreed to pay both victims $190,000 each although Memphis Police had argued officers were not engaged in a pursuit.  

    Under the settlement, neither the city nor the police department admits neither fault nor liability. 

    In March 2018, Manis told FOX13, "You have a stolen car. You don't know who is driving it. And so, you can't necessarily attach the driver to the crime."

    Officer pursuits are highly regulated by the Memphis Police Department policy.   

    An officer can only pursue a fleeing suspect if there is a reason to believe they committed a violent felony.   

    A commanding officer must give permission to start the chase and at any time can end it if innocent lives are at risk.

    Memphis City Attorney Bruce McMullen sent FOX13 this statement --  

    “This case involved serious injuries and a death. While we believe the officers involved acted appropriately, because of the nature of the injuries and the uncertainty of a trial, we felt it was in the City’s best interest to settle the case.”

    As for Toukta Southavilay, the driver of the stolen car, she pleaded guilty to all charges against her June 2018. 

     After spending 13 months in jail awaiting a trial, she was sentenced to 6 years’ probation that includes community service and drug screening.

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