Woman's suit against Pantego officer moved to federal court
An Arlington woman's lawsuit against the Pantego Police Department, which accuses a police officer of using so much force during a traffic stop that one of her breast implants ruptured, has been transferred to federal court.
Attorneys representing the town of Pantego and officer Eric Alvarez asked for the transfer because of constitutional issues raised in the suit.
It has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Terry Means' court.
The Taylor, Olson & Adkins firm, which represents Pantego, was closed Monday and Tuesday and no one could be reached for comment.
Susan Hutchison, the attorney for the woman, Rebecca Van Hooser, said she wasn't surprised.
"I fully expected [Pantego] to move the case to federal court," Hutchison said. "I think the city believes it has a better shot at immunity on the federal level."
Van Hooser sued in October. Her suit says she was driving to a grocery to buy cookie dough for her son's school project when Alvarez pulled her over for a headlight violation.
When he learned that she had an outstanding warrant for speeding, she got out of her car and Alvarez kicked her legs apart and pinned her right arm behind her with such force that a breast implant ruptured, the suit says.
When she screamed and told the officer she was in pain, Alvarez said, "You're not supposed to be comfortable," it says.
Alvarez handcuffed her and put her in his patrol car while he and another officer searched her car. The suit says Van Hooser told the other officer about spinal surgery that limited her range of motion.
When she was booked in at the city jail, the suit says, Alvarez made her carry a heavy mattress to her cell and would not give her an aspirin.
Because of her injuries, Van Hooser has had a mastectomy of her right breast and has other health complications. She was recently hospitalized and put on a ventilator, but it is unclear whether those problems can be traced to the Pantego incident, Hutchison said.
The suit also accuses the city and Police Chief Thomas Griffith of not providing Alvarez with proper training or supervision.
"The failure to supervise was deliberately indifferent to Van Hooser's constitutional rights because proper training and/or supervision would ensure that that Van Hooser would be free from undue, unreasonable and excessive force," the suit says.
Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education records show no disciplinary actions against Alvarez.