Lawsuit settlement costs county $71K

County settles shooting-related lawsuit

After months of negotiations, Montezuma County has settled the lawsuit that was filed against the sheriff's office in the summer following the justified shooting of a suspect.

Sheriff Dennis Spruell said the county commissioners on Friday agreed to pay the Denver Health and Hospital Authority $71,582 rather than risk having to pay $158,000, which was the amount listed in the lawsuit.

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

According to police reports, Sullivan's gun jammed as he pulled the trigger, and two officers shot him. Sullivan was taken to Southwest Memorial Hospital and then was airlifted to Denver for further treatment of multiple gunshot wounds.

Afterwards, the county was hit with the $158,000 lawsuit to cover Sullivan's medical costs.

"That ends the case," Spruell said, but added he was not too happy with the settlement.

"I hate paying for our officers (having to) defend themselves" the sheriff said on Friday, the same day the settlement was reached with the hospital.

The lawsuit had gone to arbitration but no agreement could be reached in those discussions.

The current county commission, which has two new commissioners, felt it would be easier to pay the hospital rather than continue the fight and possibly end up paying much more as a result.

Spruell, who had been given authority by the previous commission to negotiate with the hospital, said this agreement will not have to be approved at a commission meeting.

"It's a done deal," he said.

The more than $71,000 will not be paid by the county's insurance and will instead be paid through contingency funds that will come from the general fund.

Spruell said he does not know if the hospital will pursue action against Sullivan for any portion of the unpaid bill, saying that is the hospital's decision.

Sullivan was sentenced in June of last 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