County still talking settlement

No decision on hospital authority lawsuit case

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Despite having a mediation meeting on Dec. 7 between the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, the Montezuma County Sheriff's Office and Zachary Sullivan, speaking by phone from prison, no decision has been reached on the lawsuit the hospital filed against the county.

Sullivan was shot several times by law enforcement officers in March 2011 after pointing a gun at police. He was then airlifted to a Denver hospital where he was treated for his wounds.

Afterwards, the county was hit with a $158,000 lawsuit to cover the treatment costs.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said a few settlement numbers were thrown around at the mediation hearing but a substantial gap remains between what the two sides want.

Spruell said the sheriff's office proposed paying a little more than $40,000 to settle the lawsuit, while the hospital authority requested between $70,000 and $80,000.

"Nothing has been resolved," Spruell said.

He said he's hopeful that a settlement will be reached before the case goes to trial.

District Court Judge Todd Plewe set the trial between the county and the hospital authority for April 22.

The city of Cortez was once considered to be a third party to the lawsuit since a Cortez Police officer was among the two officers who shot Sullivan. The hospital authority later told Plewe this was not its intention.

After the attorneys asked Plewe to rule against Sullivan after he failed to respond to a cross complaint from prison, Plewe was informed Sullivan wanted to take part in the mediation hearing.

Plewe issued a court order to allow Sullivan to use a prison phone at two different times on Dec. 7.

Spruell said he is still optimistic something will be able to be worked out.

"I feel we have a good sound case," Spruell said. "I do not think we should have to pay a bill when someone pulls a gun on someone."

The sheriff said he also feels Sullivan needs to be held financially liable for the bill because it was his actions that resulted in the shooting.

Sullivan was sentenced earlier this year to 48 years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder and several other crimes related to the March 2011 incident.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com