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Responsibility for costs of property damage caused by troopers not clear cut

Posted: September 5, 2013 - 8:57pm  |  Updated: September 6, 2013 - 8:25am
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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Robin Hilton points to some of the damage to her rental home Saturday August 31, 2013  after a standoff between Alaska State Troopers and a man they were attempting to arrest left her home with several broken windows and covered in a caustic chemical that makes it difficult to breath. Hilton said she has had trouble finding anyone willing to pay for the damages.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Robin Hilton points to some of the damage to her rental home Saturday August 31, 2013 after a standoff between Alaska State Troopers and a man they were attempting to arrest left her home with several broken windows and covered in a caustic chemical that makes it difficult to breath. Hilton said she has had trouble finding anyone willing to pay for the damages.

While trying to serve an arrest warrant to an uncooperative Soldotna man on Aug. 21., Alaska State Troopers damaged the house where the man concealed himself.

Armed with a gun, James M. Cook Sr., 42, refused to leave a Jones Street residence as law enforcement negotiated with him for about 6 hours. The standoff ended when troopers threw canisters containing chemical agents through the windows into the house and Cook surrendered.

All the windows in the house, which the landlord said he had recently replaced, were broken during the incident.

Cook did not live in the home, but was an acquaintance of the renter of the home, Robin Hilton. With broken windows, damaged possessions and a lingering chemical smell for more than a week after the standoff, Hilton has been living in a tent on the property. Unable to go into the house to get her work clothes because of the severe chemicals, Hilton said she missed four days of work at Walmart, causing her to lose hundreds of dollars of pay. Now she is wondering where to go and who’s going to pay for the damages.

The house is located outside of Soldotna city limits, but Katie Ring, Kenai Peninsula Borough clerk secretary, said if damage to the property was caused by troopers, the department would be responsible for the cost of the damages.

Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters said in this situation, troopers are not responsible for paying for the damages. She said there aren’t set factors that determine whether or not troopers must cover damage fees, but given the “totality of the circumstance” the troopers will not be paying the bill.

Peters said often times the responsibility of who pays for these damages and how much that person or persons much pay is determined in civil court or during sentencing if the accused is found guilty.

Dr. Allan Barnes, a professor at the Justice Center at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said he is not entirely sure who is responsible for payment in this incident.

He said in situations where law enforcement takes “unreasonable” actions to make arrests, the cost of the damages would the responsibility of that department. But when the reason for the action taken is “based on probable cause and part of the procedure” then the agency is probably not credited with the bill.

“My suspicion is that in the process of arresting this person and getting them convicted, that person would the probably experience the restitution for the damages that were incurred during the arrest given that he didn’t come out and just say, ‘I give up,’” Barnes said.

But, if Cook is convicted and sentenced to pay restitution for the damages from the standoff as well as serve jail time, Hilton and the homeowner may not see that money for years. That situation, Barnes said, could lead to a lawsuit by property owners against the department.

Barnes said because these types of situations don’t happen frequently, he’s not aware of standard procedures to determine who is responsible for paying for the costs of damages.

Since his Aug. 24 District Court arraignment, Cook has been indicted on charges from the standoff, including five counts of third-degree assault of a trooper. He is scheduled for Superior Court arraignment at Kenai Courthouse on Sept. 10.

The arrest warrant was for domestic violence charges including kidnapping and multiple assault charges.

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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Suss
3320
Points
Suss 09/06/13 - 09:37 am
2
1
WalMart Aid

WalMart is a great corporate neighbor. I am sure they will step up and take care of one of their valued associates. Clothing, household goods anything this unfortunate lady needs is just waiting for her after the headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas
gives the okay. Might need new housing also, due to the pending eviction that was filed.
Never mind, she might have better luck collecting from AST.

Norseman
2967
Points
Norseman 09/06/13 - 12:24 pm
0
2
So a deadbeat derelict woman

So a deadbeat derelict woman beater who shoots at troopers somehow makes the State responsible for damages?
Give me a break. This article should have interviewed the property owner, not the tenant.
I am tired of the deadbeats who always want the state to pay for everything. Guess what, it is the rest of us who are the state.
The landlord needs to sue the tenant for any damages. After all it was her "guest" that caused the problems in the first place.

Ak907
3
Points
Ak907 09/06/13 - 01:06 pm
1
0
Pick me I know the answer!!

The person who is responsible for all damages and any cost is, IN JAIL.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 09/06/13 - 09:15 pm
1
1
That's Why You pay for HomeOwner's Ins

9/6/13 Mrs Hilton, Incidents such as this is Why You Pay for Homeowners Insurance. You are a Landlord, You already know this.
File a claim with your Insurance Company & move on.

Ranting & Raving about the damage caused by the State Troopers is a waste of time & energy.

SPW

JohnPeterZenger
731
Points
JohnPeterZenger 09/06/13 - 09:57 pm
1
0
No

HIlton isn't either the landlord or homeowner. She's a renter. Renters can't just buy homeowner's insurance.

Though 'renter's insurance' is available, it's not likely that your typical renter insurance policies are going to cover damage by troopers.

By the way, there's no evidence of 'ranting or raving' either.

What was that again you were saying about a waste of time and energy?

akdave
37
Points
akdave 09/06/13 - 10:34 pm
0
2
Lemme see...

Who had a known habitual criminal in her house willingly? Who knew he had warrants out for his arrest? Gee, I just can't think of who that might be. If you didn't want the house trashed, you shouldn't have had that jack-rat loser in your house huh? From the pictures the house looks like it hasn't been livable in a long time as it is. Move out and get your crap together and stop inviting felons and criminals into your dwelling!

Suss
3320
Points
Suss 09/06/13 - 10:39 pm
0
1
Ins for renters

Coverage for damaged or stolen personal property or goods is exactly what renters insurance is for, it should not matter that the troopers caused the loss, she was not reason for the actions taken. The likelihood of having this insurance in place is very low.

jlmh
351
Points
jlmh 09/06/13 - 10:53 pm
1
0
I would be surprised if

I would be surprised if either homeowners or renters insurance covered this. They usually have a clause in there absolving them from unusual situations. And every place I ever rented, I was responsible for the behavior of my guests, so I imagine it's the same here. The tenant is probably going to be responsible unless they're able to extract some prompt restitution from Cook. Or maybe the community will step up?

JohnPeterZenger
731
Points
JohnPeterZenger 09/07/13 - 08:18 am
1
0
Wrong

You said it yourself, renter insurance is coverage for damaged 'personal property'.

Coverage for personal property does not mean coverage for damage to real property.

Real property is land and whatever is erected on said land, such as buildings one rents.

Informing oneself before attempting to inform others is always good form.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 09/07/13 - 08:35 am
1
1
My Bad

Sat. 9/7/13 My Bad I made a mistake with the Name of Mrs Hilton. I apologize for that mistake.

Any Landlord would have HomeOwners Insurance & it would be wise to submit a Claim for the damages to this house.

& Yes it is a waste of time to keep demanding that the State Troopers pay for the damage to this house.

I learned a hard lesson when I was a Landlord to ALWAYS do a Criminal & Credit BackGround Check BEFORE you sign a Rental Agreement w/ a Tenant. Yes those services cost you money but prove to be worth every dime at a later date.
SPW

JohnPeterZenger
731
Points
JohnPeterZenger 09/07/13 - 08:58 am
1
0
Home Owner policies

If you think a homeowner policy protects you from such problems, you might want to check with a property lawyer, or at least question the insurance agent real closely.

Most policies favor the insurance company when it comes time to file a claim. It's the nature of the business. That peace of mind an insurance policy is supposed to give you isn't always as real as you may think and not all policies are alike.

spwright
1376
Points
spwright 09/07/13 - 09:10 am
1
1
J P Z

Sat 9/7/13 You are Correct. Insurance Companies will have a single page explaining to the customer what IS covered by the Homeowners Ins. Most of which are written in Legal Speak & difficult to understand.

Then there will be NUMEROUS pages explaining What is NOT Covered by the Homeowners Ins. As you stand there stratching your head attemping to figure out What Exactly am I Paying over $1,200.00 per year for & there is No Answers ?

& the Ins Companies are Laughing All the Way to the Bank.

SPW

Suss
3320
Points
Suss 09/07/13 - 09:21 am
0
1
JPZ

Let us assume that her property is as contaminated as the structure, even more so when it comes to clothing, now do you understand her loss? Nice to see that someone can read, moving on to comprehension is the next step. Nowhere was renters insurance intended to be confused by anyone (besides JPZ) that has a third grade reading ability, with the building being covered by this type of coverage.
"Unable to go into the house to get her work clothes because of the severe chemicals".
The landlord has already filed an action in court against the renter; damage claims are part of such actions.

JohnPeterZenger
731
Points
JohnPeterZenger 09/07/13 - 09:24 pm
1
0
Let 'us' assume ?

No, thanks. I'll leave you to your own assumptions. I've learned to avoid assumptions, too often they are erroneous. I notice you've made a number of assumptions, none of which have you provided any basis to support their being either correct or factual.

In one instance, you assume, presuming of course, if there even was renter insurance in place, that said assumed insurance 'should' cover the losses above. Really? And you know this because?

Once you've demonstrated that your 'powers of assumption' are infallible, then you can ask if someone wants to share your assumptions. Even if you were to do so, you still wouldn't be free to assign your assumptions to others.

Don't get me wrong. Though you're welcome to your own assumptions, however misguided they may be, ...they are, in the end, only your assumptions, and despite the additional assumption that you can freely assign your assumptions to others as well, your assumptions are just that, yours and yours alone. Enjoy them if and when you can.

Oh, ... If you trouble yourself to investigate, you will find that most homeowner and renter policies do not cover damages due to law enforcement activities, and those few you will find that do cover such damages will likely only pay out if the law enforcement agencies are found to have acted unlawfully or exceeded their normal powers. It's a common standard exemption.
You can, (and should probably), check with some agents before making that particular assumption again.

bob99507
361
Points
bob99507 09/09/13 - 05:02 pm
2
2
I think the woman is working

I think the woman is working at Wlmart and deserves a little more respctfrom some of the writers at least she is working and not living on welfare good for her

JohnPeterZenger
731
Points
JohnPeterZenger 09/09/13 - 09:01 pm
2
0
welfare and walmart

Not speaking of, or about this particular woman, but working for Walmart often means seeking additional assistance of some type. Why? Because plain and simply, Walmart profits directly off the backs of it's workers.

The Waltons, Walmart's founders, have amassed about 100 billion dollars.

The key component of their success is the substandard wages they pay their workers.

The taxpayers of this nation subsidize Walmart's low wages in the form of government assistance programs that many of their workers rely on to make ends meet since Walmart won't pay them a living wage.

Walmart is close to if not the largest employer in the nation, and is paying it's workers substandard wages, additionally, at the least 1/3 of it's workers aren't allowed more than part time status which pays miserably and earns those workers no benefits whatsoever.

The Walton's 'business plan' makes Walmart essentially the largest welfare recipient in the nation because it forces so many of it's workers to turn to other forms of assistance besides their substandard pay. Taxpayers are subsidizing the Walton's business plan. Taxpayers are making the Waltons even wealthier than they already are.

It's not any kind of negative reflection on those working at Walmart, they are not responsible for their employer paying them substandard wages and exploiting loopholes to deny their employees basic benefits.

There's no bargain to be had by buying things from Walmart, any couple of pennies you might save on a purchase is negated by significant tax monies taken from you to help subsidize Walmart's profits for the Walton family.

If we weren't supporting Walmart's greedy business plan with our tax money, we could put that money to better use. Better use than just giving the Waltons more to add to the 100 billion they've already 'earned'.

Empathy for the working poor is something sorely lacking in those professing to adhere to conservative ideology. The disconnect resulting in the scorn heaped on the working poor by the right wing is simply disgraceful.

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