A $30 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Pittsfield Township Police Department for their connection to a fatal drunk driving crash has now increased to $50 million.
On Dec. 30. 2017, Lake Jacobson was killed in a drunk driving accident on a Pittsfield Township road. Desten Houge, the driver who hit her, died at the scene of the accident.
In October 2018, Mark Jacobson, the husband of Lake Jacobson, filed a lawsuit against the Pittsfield Township Police Department and Sakstrup Towing Inc., accusing them of negligently allowing Houge to drive away from a crash an hour prior along the same road.
“When defendants (the officers and tow truck driver) encountered super-drunk Houge, he had effectively been neutralized. He had lost control and driven his vehicle into a ditch rendering it inoperable. Defendants took a neutralized risk and resurrected it,” Jacobson’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.
Dashboard camera videos showed Houge saying, “I can’t explain this s**t,” at the first crash, falling once in the snow and being helped up by an officer.
Houge wasn’t given a sobriety test.
Houge’s vehicle had functional damage after the previous crash and he had a blood alcohol level of .24 and THC, a component of marijuana, in his system at the time of the fatal crash.
On Feb. 13, Washtenaw County Trial Court Judgem Timothy Connors, denied the officer’s and towing company’s attorneys’ motion for summary disposition to end the case and allowed an amended complaint from Jacobson’s attorneys, increasing the lawsuit to $50 million.
“Information obtained through discovery in the case created a more profound sense of loss for the family,” Stephen Goethel, one of the Jacobsons’ attorneys, said.
Goethel said that officers left the scene before Houge’s vehicle was pulled from the ditch.
The trial for the case is postponed as it is set to be submitted to the Michigan Court of Appeals by the officers’ attorneys asking for clarity in the state’s public duty doctrine.
The doctrine protects officers from negligence lawsuits for failure to provide police protection unless a person makes it clear that a special relationship exists between the officer and the person.