City settles civil lawsuit for $15M; insurer will pay majority

The city has agreed to a $15 million settlement in a civil case filed by a man injured after a police chase through north Palm Springs nearly five years ago. The city’s insurer will pay two-thirds of the cost.

The settlement comes days after jury seating began for the damages portion of the case. A jury had earlier ruled that the city and one of its police officers did bear some responsibility for injuries suffered by Russell Manning. He sued both the city and the officer following an October 2016 crash in the 300 block of Avenida Cerca.

Police said the crash followed a chase that began on Rosa Parks Road, following reports that Manning was operating a motorcycle recklessly. But Manning’s attorneys, George Mgdesyan and Sarkis Manukyan of the firm LA Lawyers, said Manning was not being chased and was simply riding his motorcycle on Avenida Cerca when he was struck by the patrol vehicle driven by Officer Matt Olson “without sirens, without any lights, and not on any emergency call or any pursuit.”

City Attorney Jeffrey Ballinger maintained Monday that the officer did nothing wrong. But in the interest of all involved, he said, it was time to settle the case that has dragged through Riverside County Superior Court for years.

“As the City approached the second phase of this case (damages), given the catastrophic injuries suffered by Mr. Manning, the uncertainty of a potential damages verdict, the uncertainties involved in any appeal, and in consultation with the City’s insurer and outside counsel, the parties were able to reach a compromised resolution,” Ballinger wrote in an email to The Post. “The amount settled upon is greater than what the City valued the case at and less than what the Plaintiff asked for.”

Following the crash, Manning was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including evading arrest. Manning, who is now 32 and still lives in Palm Springs, ultimately pleaded guilty, court documents show, and was given three years’ probation.

“This was an unfortunate accident following a police pursuit … to which Mr. Manning pled guilty to a felony for evading a peace officer,” Ballinger wrote. “The City has faith in our justice system. However, in 2019, a jury did not view the case the same way as the City and that jury found the City responsible for the accident. The City does not believe that the officer involved did anything wrong, but the City respects the jury system.”


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