Beaufort County Sheriff's Office sued over Bluffton wreck

rlurye@islandpacket.comApril 11, 2014 

Moments after a squad car hit her SUV on Valentine's Day, Jessie Brinsfield said she found herself knee-deep in marsh water, pain shooting through her arm, neck and back.

The Bluffton woman remembers a bystander helping her up the embankment off the eastbound lane of May River Road, where her 2013 Toyota RAV4 LE had come to a rest after striking a tree, according to a S.C. Highway Patrol report.

The report said Deputy Joseph Dickman of the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office alone contributed to the wreck at about 8:20 p.m. Feb. 14 when he pulled off the right shoulder of the westbound lane, failed to yield right of way, then attempted a U-turn as Brinsfield passed him. He hit the front passenger side of her SUV.

Dickman was not charged in the accident.

The Sheriff's Office's insurance agency has denied Brinsfield's claim for about $10,000 in medical expenses, she said, prompting the 32-year-old to file a lawsuit March 13 in the Beaufort County Court of Common Pleas. The suit, seeking damages for injuries and lost wages, states Dickman's attempted U-turn was reckless and negligent.

"There was no proceeding with any caution," Brinsfield said. "It was totally unsafe."

The Sheriff's Office is the sole defendant in the suit. Sheriff P.J. Tanner declined to comment on the case, and attempts Friday to reach Dickman and an attorney for the Sheriff's Office, Robert Achurch, were unsuccessful.

A response to the suit, filed March 27, denies Dickman was negligent and states he was turning around in the road to assist another deputy. Brinsfield's injuries were the result of her own recklessness, because she failed to yield to an emergency vehicle and improperly tried to pass the squad car, the document states.

The response requests the case be dismissed.

Brinsfield's suit says she injured her wrist, neck and back, resulting in "great bodily pain and mental suffering, temporary physical disability," and recuperative care, according to the document.

Her SUV sustained about $6,500 worth of damage, according to the Highway Patrol report.

It was not clear Friday whether Dickman was hurt in the wreck, though the report states he was also transported to a hospital by EMS, and his cruiser sustained about $1,000 of damage.

Brinsfield's complaint demands a jury trail, according to the documents.

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

Documents: The complaint and answer

Jessie Brinsfield v. BCSO

Document: The accident report

Jessie Brinsfield vs. BCSO accident report

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