— A Kansas police officer who was nearly killed by a stolen Chevrolet Tahoe has filed a lawsuit against the dealership that allegedly didn't report the SUV had been stolen two months before.
The unusual lawsuit was filed by Wichita police officer Brian Arterburn and his wife who sued Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac for disabling injuries Mr. Arterburn sustained on February 7, 2017.
According to the lawsuit, Wichita police were searching for a wanted individual and noticed a $66,000 model year 2016 Chevrolet Tahoe in the driveway of a residence. Officers noticed the SUV had dealer license plates and determined the tags belonged to Eddy’s Chevrolet.
After contacting the dealership, officers were informed the Tahoe was stolen from the dealer nearly two months before, and two dealer license plates had either been lost or stolen.
Wichita police then watched as the Tahoe pulled out of the driveway and a pursuit got underway, causing officer Arterburn to deploy stop sticks (spike strips) on the road. As the stolen Tahoe approached, the driver accelerated and swerved into officer Arterburn at a high rate of speed, crushing his skull and causing life-threatening injuries.
Justin Terrazas, the driver of the stolen SUV, was eventually captured and police allegedly found methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia inside the Tahoe.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Arterburn sustained severe injuries, including a skull fracture, bleeding on the brain and internal injuries.
Officer Arterburn required 10 months of treatment and rehabilitation before he finally returned home, leaving him with severe mental and physical injuries that require 24-hour professional care.
The plaintiffs claim Kansas Department of Revenue regulations require that when a dealer’s plate is lost or stolen, the dealer must within 10 days contact its local police department, highway patrol or sheriffs office.
As the titled owner of the 2016 Chevy Tahoe, the dealership allegedly violated its duty to the officer and the public by failing to ensure the Chevy Tahoe wasn't furnished to a reckless driver.
According to the lawsuit, Eddy’s Chevrolet should have known the strong correlation between vehicle thefts and crashes, yet the dealership allegedly failed to secure its inventory and failed in its duty to report the theft.
Hutton & Hutton, attorneys for the plaintiffs, say the incident has taken a good officer off the force and left him unable to provide for his family. Additionally, Brian Arterburn and his wife, also a police officer, were married only a month when the incident occurred.
“The fact that Officer Arterburn survived having his skull run over by that SUV at high speed is nothing short of a miracle, but his fight for survival will be a lifelong endeavor. His brain injuries are substantial and permanent, requiring numerous surgeries and medical interventions, and he will need multiple trained professionals by his side to care for him as long as he lives.”
The stolen Chevy Tahoe lawsuit was filed in the Eighteenth Judicial District Court for Sedgwick County, Kansas.
The plaintiffs are represented by Hutton & Hutton.
Update (4/13/2018): The plaintiffs amended the lawsuit that now claims the SUV and dealer license plates were not stolen from the dealership. According to the newest version of the lawsuit, someone at the dealership loaned out the SUV and license plates, and the driver, Justin Terrazas, was likely the "permissive user" of the Chevy Tahoe.
The lawsuit claims that whoever loaned out the SUV to Justin Terrazas should have known he was a reckless driver, thus making the dealership "liable for all damages caused by Mr. Terrazas."