Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Plaintiff awarded $300K in case related to 2015 traffic stop — $300,000 verdict

Plaintiff awarded $300K in case related to 2015 traffic stop — $300,000 verdict

Type of action: Civil rights

Injuries alleged: Broken tooth, scar above eyebrow, facial scrapes, fear, indignation and emotional trauma; violation of Fourth Amendment; false arrest, excessive use of force and unlawful search of person and car

Name of case: Cromartie v. Billings

Court: Petersburg Circuit Court

Case no.: CL16000385-01

Tried before: Jury

Name of judge or mediator: Judge Joseph M. Teefey Jr.

Date resolved: 7/12/2021

Verdict or settlement: Verdict

Amount: $300,000 plus attorneys’ fees

Attorneys for plaintiff (and city): Jonathan Arthur, Andrew Bodoh and Tom Roberts, Richmond

Description of case: The case was first tried by a jury on the state tort claims for assault, battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution arising from a traffic stop on Feb. 12, 2015, resulting in a verdict of $23,499.

Upon defense motion the civil rights claims were not submitted to the jury. On appeal, Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons described the case stating, “[I]n this case Billings faced a situation where there was obviously no need for the use of any force—writing a traffic citation to Cromartie for speeding and her minor delay in responding to his request to open her window—and took an unreasonably aggressive action of forcing her face-down onto the pavement, escalating this incident to a violent exchange where she suffered numerous injuries.”

The case was tried the second time on damages for the Fourth Amendment civil rights claims of false arrest, excessive use of force and the unlawful search under Va. Code § 19.2-59. Uniquely, due to the shortage of jurors, the parties agreed to use a rarely used procedure in Virginia under § 8.01-359(D) using a jury of three with the consent of the plaintiff and defendant.

Under that procedure, each party selected one juror and the two selected jurors selected the third which then constituted the jury, requiring only two to concur to render the verdict. (In this case the verdict was however unanimous).

The jury returned a verdict with damages as follows: Fourth Amendment false arrest – $25,000 compensatory and $25,000 punitive; Fourth Amendment excessive force – $100,000 compensatory and $100,000 punitive; Va. Code  §  19.2-59 unlawful search – $25,000 compensatory and $25,000 punitive.