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Cottageville makes settlement offer to Reeves family

Bert Reeves

Cottageville town officials are vowing that its town taxpayers will not have to worry about facing a new tax base or a rise in the town’s annual operating budget for the town to pay the family of Bert Reeves $10 million.

The town originally was ordered to pay $60 million in punitive damages as part of a civil lawsuit to the family of Bert Reeves as part of a wrongful death lawsuit against the town. Reeves, a former Cottageville mayor, was shot to death in 2011 off of Griffith Acres Road during a confrontation with a then on-duty Cottageville police officer. That officer, Randall Price, was also sued by the family. In addition to what the town of Cottageville was ordered to pay, Price was also ordered by a federal jury to pay the Reeves family $30 million in punitive damages. The federal jury found the town guilty of hiring aggressive officers like Price, who had a documented history of aggression while on duty. The total amount originally awarded was $97.5 million.

The new settlement amount from the town to the Reeves’ family is $1.4 million for “survivorship,” and $8.6 million for wrongful death.

No settlement has been reached by the Price family, as of press deadline.

Last week, however, the Town of Cottageville entered into a settlement agreement with the Reeves’ family for the $10 million in damages. The town’s insurance carrier – the S.C. Insurance Risk and Refinancing Fund (SCMIRF)- will pay for the settlement via the town’s insurance policy. Cottageville Council received legal advice and updates on this issue at its Monday night town council meeting. “The Town of Cottageville is pleased to learn that SCMIRF and the family of the late Bert Reeves have negotiated a resolution to all claims brought against the town,” Cottageville Mayor Tim Grimsley said, in a prepared statement. “We are hopeful that resolution of the litigation arising from this tragic incident can help to begin a process of closure and healing for the Reeves family and for all the citizens of Cottageville.”

According to both Grimsley and other members of the town’s administrative staff, the town will not create a tax base to help pay for the settlement amount, as the insurance carrier and the town have worked out the financial arrangement.

Mullins McLeod, the attorney for the Reeves family in their civil suit, originally told The Colletonian that the financial win was more about a “needed change” that the Town of Cottageville should have in its hiring practices of the town’s police officers. McLeod also said that he hoped the verdict would bring new light to how people with diagnosed medical conditions should be treated: Reeves was suffering from a bi-polar disorder. “This verdict should bring about a discussion about the legitimate reasons why the CPD even exists – and this verdict should bring about issues about being bi-polar. If you are bi-polar, you shouldn’t get shot in the chest while you are unarmed and it be okay,” said McLeod.

 

Heather Walters (515 Posts)