Police not at fault in man's death, Huntington says

By Kelly Holleran | Mar 17, 2009

HUNTINGTON – The city of Huntington denies its police force is responsible for the death of a Cabell County woman's son and has requested the federal court dismiss the case she filed.

Geneva Maynard claims Huntington police stopped a 2008 Chevrolet Trail Blazer her son, Christopher Ratliff, was riding in and proceeded to beat Ratliff up, causing his death.

When he was stopped, Ratliff was traveling as a passenger in the 3100 block of Fifth Avenue in Huntington at about 4 on July 11, according to the complaint filed Nov. 20 in Cabell Circuit Court.

At the time of the stop, several officers approached the vehicle in which Ratliff was riding and one of them struck Ratliff in the back of the head with a weapon, the suit states.

"At no time had the Decedent made any threatening move, attempt to defend himself or otherwise act in an aggressive manner," the suit states. "The Decedent was also not armed."

After striking Ratliff in the head, the officer then pulled him from the vehicle and, with the help of another officer, beat him, Maynard alleges.

At the time of the incident, there were about three other officers who did nothing to protect Ratliff or to end the beating.

"As a result of the beating, the Decedent lost consciousness and died at the scene," the suit states.

However, Huntington denies the allegations against its police officers.

In its answer, Huntington contends the suit should be dismissed because Maynard fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

It also alleges that Ratliff was guilty of fault equal or greater than the policemen's negligence, so the suit should be barred.

"Defendants allege that the plaintiff and plaintiff's decedent assumed the risk of the damages and injuries of which she complains and, therefore, the action of the plaintiff and plaintiff's decedent is barred by the doctrine of assumption of risk," the suit states.

Before his death, Ratliff experienced pain, suffering, emotional distress and terror, Maynard claims.

Because of her son's death, Maynard has incurred funeral, burial and medical expenses and has suffered sorrow and mental anguish, she alleges.

She has also lost Ratliff's society, companionship, comfort, guidance, advice, services, income, protection, care and assistance, according to the complaint.

Maynard is seeking unspecified punitive damages, plus costs and other relief the court deems appropriate.

In addition to its request that the complaint be dismissed, Huntington is seeking recovery of its costs.

Huntington has removed the suit to federal court because it claims the suit involves federal laws.

Maynard is represented by Paul E. Biaar of Fredeking and Fredeking Law Offices in Huntington.

Huntington is represented by Steven K. Nord and Ryan Q. Ashworth of Offutt Nord in Huntington.

U.S. District Court case number: 3:09-0101

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