The wife of retired Wichita police Officer Brian Arterburn is seeking $75 million-plus additional money in the form of punitive damages from a Wichita car dealership and a convicted drug dealer she contends are responsible for the life-altering brain injuries Arterburn sustained when he was run over by a fleeing SUV while on duty in 2017.
A pre-trial order filed earlier this year gives a breakdown of economic and non-economic damages sought by Claudale Arterburn in her March 2018 negligence suit against Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac and its owners as well as the drug dealer, Justin F. “Money” Terrazas:
- at least $2.4 million to reimburse the City of Wichita for medical, hospital, and pharmacy expenses it already paid for Arterburn’s treatment
- Nearly $21.3 million in estimated future medical expenses including costs for specialized care and home health assistance
- $1.8 million for Arterburn’s lost income and job-related benefits
- $104,658 for income lost by Arterburn’s wife
- $279,217 for lost household services
- Just over $49 million for pain and suffering, loss of marital and familial benefits, and other non-economic damages
Court records show Claudale Arterburn is also seeking punitive damages in the case, the amount of which, if awarded, would be determined by a judge. A four-week jury trial is currently scheduled to start on Aug. 9.
Wichita-based law firm Hutton & Hutton, which is representing Claudale Arterburn, publicly announced the trial date in a news release Wednesday that also briefly summarized the litigation history of the case. Developments, since the case was filed in 2018, include unsuccessful moves by the defendants to have the case dismissed and a string of motions denied in a Feb. 26 ruling that “effectively clears the Arterburns’ case for trial,” the release says.
Hutton & Hutton declined to comment beyond the information shared in the release. Lawyers for the dealership and its owners — Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac LLC, Moxie Motors LLC, Steven Enterprises LLC, and Brandon Steven Motors LLC — did not immediately return a message seeking comment late Wednesday morning.
Attorneys representing Terrazas in the matter also did not immediately respond.
In the release, attorneys for the Arterburns say since the summer of 2018 more than 65 witnesses have been deposed, and they have collected thousands of documents and pieces of evidence, some of which have been filed with the court under seal.
This past August, a Sedgwick County District Court judge gave the nod for the Arterburns to pursue punitive damages against the dealership, finding that Claudale Arterburn had “demonstrated to this court by clear and convincing evidence that it is more likely than not that she will prevail on her claims,” the release said, quoting from the judge’s ruling.
The Arterburns can also seek punitive damages against Terrazas, the judge ruled in November. In Kansas, punitive damages are awarded to punish defendants in a civil case and deter future wrongdoing.
“The Arterburns’ lawsuit has been fiercely litigated over the past 36 months,” the lawyers said in the news release.
The suit alleges Eddy’s Chevrolet Cadillac gave Terrazas access to the $66,000 black 2016 Chevy Tahoe that he was driving when he ran over Wichita police Officer Brian Arterburn during a home-stakeout-turned-car-chase in south Wichita on Feb. 7, 2017.
The dealership has said previously that the vehicle was stolen and that it has “no clear understanding” of how Terrazas came to have it in his possession. Terrazas has refused to answer questions posed by The Eagle about where he got the Tahoe.
Arterburn suffered extensive, disabling brain injuries when he was run over while laying a tire deflation device in the road at Kinkaid and Topeka in an attempt to slow or stop the SUV.
The lawsuit claims the dealership “acted recklessly” when it either entrusted Terrazas with the Tahoe, or alternatively when it failed to either secure the Tahoe or report it, its spare keys and a dealer’s tag as stolen for the more than seven weeks the SUV was missing from its lot. The suit alleges the dealership was warned the SUV was likely being used during that time for criminal activity — including by a gaming agent who contacted the dealership after spotting the vehicle dropping off suspected prostitutes at the Kansas Star Casino — but took no steps to locate it or call police until officers inquired about its status just hours before Arterburn was injured.
Terrazas, a known drug dealer with a history of criminal convictions, also acted recklessly when he fled from police who tried to stop the SUV after it was seen at a house police had under surveillance, the lawsuit alleges.
Terrazas, who was criminally charged, pleaded guilty to reckless aggravated battery, fleeing from law enforcement and possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence. His earliest possible release date is still 29 years away, Kansas Department of Corrections records show.
“Brian and Claudale Arterburn would like to thank the countless members of the Wichita community who have supported them for the past four years, as well as those across Kansas and many other areas of the nation,” their attorneys said in Wednesday’s news release.
“They will never forget their friends and neighbors who have stood by them during Brian’s long recovery — which continues to this day — and through the long Court cases, civil and criminal, which have followed.”
After multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, Brian Arterburn took medical retirement from his police job in 2018. He was a 25-year veteran of the force. His wife is also a Wichita police officer.