Arlington County is paying out $97,000 to settle a lawsuit from a woman alleging that a police officer struck her with a car while she was in the middle of a crosswalk near Rosslyn.
The County Board voted unanimously to approve a settlement agreement last Wednesday (July 18) with Samantha Birr, an Arlington resident who filed suit seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages in circuit court in December 2017. The Board discussed the matter in closed session, and did not reveal additional details of the settlement ahead of its vote.
Birr had claimed that she suffered serious injuries stemming from a crash that took place on Jan. 13, 2015. She alleged that Marling Montenegro, then a county police officer, slammed into her with a police vehicle as she attempted to cross Lee Highway near where it intersects with N. Veitch Street, just past the MOM’s Organic Market.
Montenegro’s lawyers insisted in legal filings that she did nothing wrong, asserting that Birr was equally at fault for the accident, yet the county’s settlement averts the need for a trial on the matter that was originally scheduled to start Wednesday (July 25).
County attorney Steve MacIsaac was not immediately available for comment on the settlement, but county police spokesman Ashley Savage told ARLnow that Montenegro is no longer with the department. Savage added that the county commissioned an “internal administrative” investigation of the matter, but declined to share the results, citing privacy considerations.
Birr declined to discuss the settlement, and her attorney did not respond to a request for comment on the case. But, in legal documents, Birr’s attorney claimed that the incident “significantly affected [her] liveliness and livelihood.”
The lawsuit claims that Birr was heading home from her Rosslyn office immediately before the crash, walking west on a sidewalk along Lee Highway. As she turned right to cross the highway, she says Montenegro suddenly turned right off of N. Veitch Street, striking her on her left side.
“The impact knocked Ms. Birr onto the hood of [Montenegro’s] vehicle, where Ms. Birr’s left elbow smashed into and cracked the vehicle’s windshield,” Birr’s attorney wrote in the suit. “Ms. Birr rolled off the hood of the vehicle and fell onto the ground.”
Birr claims that she had a “walk” sign from a nearby crosswalk signal at the time, and said that Montenegro “did not stop, slow down or yield” for her. Additionally, she says that Montenegro did not have her lights flashing and was not responding to an emergency at the time, a fact that Montenegro’s lawyers conceded.
Birr’s attorney claimed she “sustained serious and continuing injuries to her elbow, arm and hand, including nerve damage, chronic pain, numbness and decreased sensation in and use of various body parts” as a result of the crash, necessitating surgery.
Accordingly, the suit alleged two different counts of negligence against Montenegro, and demanded $350,000 in damages stemming from each one.
Montenegro’s attorneys pushed back on all of those accusations in a Jan. 19 filing, even asking to have the suit dismissed in its entirety. However, a judge denied that motion in a May 18 hearing, setting up the trial that was eventually averted by the county’s settlement.