The attorney for the family of Stacey Pollard is asking Pitt County commissioners to settle a potential lawsuit against the county even before it's filed.
In a letter to county commissioners obtained by WITN News, David Sutton wants the county to pay $400,000 to Barbara Pollard.
Last week jurors found Michelle Pollard negligent in the death of her husband, and attorneys on both sides agreed to $500,000 in damages. But Pollard, a former sheriff's lieutenant, is already in bankruptcy court. Sutton told county commissioners that former Sheriff Mac Manning "caused this problem by having a 'special relationship' with Michelle and covering up how Stacey Pollard died."
In the letter Sutton said the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals told the family that, after going to state court, if they could prove prejudice by a cover-up then they could go back to federal court to seek relief. Originally the family filed their suit in federal court, but it was dismissed. Sutton told commissioners that in federal court they could get a much larger verdict that $500,000.
Sutton says he rather settle with Pitt County than file more litigation, which he says "will further erode public confidence in county government".
But Pitt County questions the legality of paying out in the Pollard case. "The county's response at this point in time would be that this is a civil matter which is a private case, and that what is being suggested in the letter for Pitt County to pay off $400,000 is not legal," said County Manager Scott Elliot. "It's not legal to use public monies in a private civil matter."
Asked whether he has concerns about further litigation involving the county, Elliot said they would refer that to the county attorney. "The county has defended and will defend any other lawsuits that come our way, and we have got counsel who's taking care of that."
Michelle Pollard was successfully sued by the family of her dead husband, claiming wrongful death. Stacey Pollard was found dead in a pool in the backyard of the couple's Grimesland home in 2005. The Pitt County Sheriff's Office ruled Pollard's death accidental. At the time she was a lieutenant with the department.
Letter from Pollard family attorney
October 7, 2001
Re: Settlement Proposal
Dear Jimmy Garris:
As you know, I represent Barbara Pollard. Former sheriff’s deputy, Michelle Pollard confessed judgment for $500,000 after the jury found her liable for Stacey Pollard’s wrongful death. However, it is doubtful we will ever collect it due to the delays and Michelle Pollard’s bankruptcy. We all know that Mac Manning caused this problem by having a “special relationship” with Michelle and covering up how Stacey Pollard died. One judge even asked why Mac Manning had not been charged criminally.
The opinion from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals (which dismissed the first suit against Pitt County Sheriff’s Office) says that if, after going to state court, we can prove prejudice caused by Mac’s cover-up, then we can go to federal court to seek relief. And, if we are unable to collect the judgment against Michelle due to the delay caused by Mac’s cover-up, that certainly establishes prejudice. I have contacted Michelle Pollard’s bankruptcy trustee, but I already know that we will not be able to collect even 20% of the $500,000 judgment. However, we could get a much larger verdict than $500,000 in federal court.
Because my family has lived in this county for a few hundred years (and I never cease hoping that our elected officials will stand up for the little guy rather than that corrupt former sheriff and his political cronies), I propose a settlement rather than more litigation; more litigation that will further erode public confidence in County government (because Pitt county paid a harlot’s fraudulent workers comp claim) rather than supporting a woman whose son was murdered and the officer that tried to help her. Some commissioners even pressured the new sheriff not to hire Paula Dance. Frankly, it’s been shameful.
Hence, I propose that the County pay the difference between (the rather modest) $500,000 judgment and what we can collect from Michelle Pollard. Since, we’ll never get $100,000 from Michelle (due to cover-up), our offer to forego more litigation is for the County to pay $400,000 to Barbara Pollard. I look forward to your prompt response.
David C. Sutton,
Attorney for Barbara Pollard
cc: Pitt Board of County Commissioners