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Sheriff’s North Auburn patrol-car crash lawsuit moving toward trial

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A case involving a woman suing Placer County over injuries she claims to have suffered in a North Auburn crash with a sheriff’s patrol car is moving toward a trial in November. Julie DeWitt, 37, was involved in a May 19, 2009, collision with a sheriff’s car driven by Deputy Jack Hickey that had sounded its siren and was flashing its emergency lights at the busy Bell Road-Highway 49 intersection before proceeding through a red light. This past week, Placer Superior Court Commissioner Michael Jacques denied Deputy County Counsel David Huskey’s request for reopening questioning on a 2000 back injury DeWitt had received after a crash near Roseville. In that instance, DeWitt had received $100,000 from the defendant’s insurance policy for an injury diagnosed as bulging discs. Huskey claimed in court filings this month that there was a need for further answers from DeWitt on the earlier crash because she had downplayed the previous accident while making “false and misleading statements.” Because the injury was in the same part of DeWitt’s body as the 2000 injury, Huskey said more questioning was needed. Jacques, in his ruling, denied the county counsel’s motion, stating that it would be unfairly prejudicial so close to a potential trial date and more than four months after earlier questioning had ended. DeWitt’s attorney – Michael B. Moore of San Francisco – stated that DeWitt will require disc surgery at two levels as a result of the accident. “Remarkably, Julie DeWitt suffered an earlier back injury when her vehicle was struck by a drunk driver when he ran a red light,” Moore said. “She recovered and started working as a rural route carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in 2004.” Moore said DeWitt is now disabled as a result of the 2009 crash and facing multiple surgeries. Court records show that Hickey had been dispatched to drive to a reported tractor-trailer wreck near Colfax and that a possible explosion had occurred. He had been cleared to switch on his flashing lights and siren as he proceeded along Bell Road. The car made it across the southbound lanes but hit DeWitt’s Suburban in the rear and spun it around. Accident reports filed with the lawsuit indicate DeWitt was driving the speed limit and had a green light. Moore’s statement said that Hickey was found at fault for failing to exercise due caution at an intersection. But Huskey states that emergency vehicles are exempt if they are responding to an emergency call and DeWitt was partly to blame. DeWitt has put no dollar value other than “more than $25,000” on the claim. She’s seeking general damages, medical costs and loss of earnings. The original suit was filed in May 2010. Huskey declined to go into details about the case. “It’s a tough liability case and we’re disputing the nature of the injuries,” Huskey said. A phone message was left Monday for Moore but he hadn’t responded by press deadline.