Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lawsuit accusing Joplin police officer of punching woman, fondling her breasts is dismissed

A lawsuit accusing a Joplin Police officer with punching a woman and fondling her breasts while arresting her at Mercy Hospital was dismissed today in U. S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri.

Andrew Protzman, the Kansas City attorney representing Cassie Tritthart, Miami, Oklahoma, filed the dismissal, which is without prejudice, meaning the suit can be reinstated at a later date. Each side will pay for its legal fees.

Earlier, Protzman had attempted to withdraw as Tritthart's attorney, but the judge did not allow him to do so until representation for Tritthart could be found.

Tritthart accused Officer Seth Lugenbell of committing assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, violating her right to due process, using excessive force, and unreasonable search and seizure.

The City of Joplin was listed as a co-defendant for "negligent supervision and training" of Lugenbell.

The petition detailed Tritthart's version of events:

On or about January 31, 2016, Plaintiff visited Freeman Hospital West located at 1102 W. 32nd St., Joplin, MO 64804 (“Freeman Hospital”) with complaints of heart issues.

At Freeman Hospital, Plaintiff was given medication, and released. Plaintiff began to feel nauseous, and thought she may faint, and decided to seek a second medical opinion regarding her heart complaints.

Upon leaving, Plaintiff accidentally knocked over a few items in the waiting room at Freeman Hospital. On information and belief, Freeman Hospital nurse Steven Mitchell called the Joplin Police Department to report someone allegedly “vandalizing” the waiting room. Plaintiff’s mother drove Plaintiff to Mercy Hospital located at 100 Mercy Way, Joplin, MO 64804 to obtain a second medical opinion regarding her heart complaints.

At Mercy Hospital, Plaintiff began to change clothes in a private examination room at which time Defendant Lugenbell, without warning, barged into the private examination room while Plaintiff was undressing, and began to question Plaintiff.

Plaintiff asked Defendant Legenbell why he was in her private examination room, and told Defendant Lugenbell that she would not speak without first consulting an attorney. Next, without warning, Defendant Lugenbell grabbed Ms. Tritthart by her left arm and threw her into the hallway, causing her face to slam violently into the floor.

Defendant Lugenbell proceeded to punch and kick Plaintiff while she was on the ground, both before and after handcuffing her.

After handcuffing Plaintiff, Defendant Lungenbell fondled Plaintiff’s breasts, causing her bra to raise up around her neck, where it remained during the entirety of her booking and subsequent holding at the Joplin City Jail, until she was released.

Plaintiff was arrested and charged with (1) vandalism, (2) assault on a law enforcement officer, (3) resisting arrest, and (4) failure to comply with a request for information.

Those charges are no longer listed on Newton County online court records.

The lawsuit was initially filed June 29 in Newton County Circuit Court and was removed to federal court at the request of attorney Karl Blanchard representing the City of Joplin and Lugenbell.

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