NEW: Federal judge clears Gardens officer in 2015 double-fatal crash


A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit accusing a Palm Beach Gardens police officer and the city of negligence in a 2015 crash that left an 18-year-old Gardens teen and her 28-year-old boyfriend dead.

In a 13-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks on Monday soundly rejected claims by the mother of Kayle Claypoole that Officer Tatsuaki Hayashi was responsible for her daughter’s death because the officer chased the car her boyfriend, Taylor Giese, was driving. Both were killed when Giese crashed into a parked truck in the Cabana Colony neighborhood just north of The Gardens Mall.

West Palm Beach attorney Andrea Ann Lewis, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of mother Jacqueline Ombres, wasn’t immediately available for comment about whether she planned to appeal the ruling.

Scott Alexander, a Fort Lauderdale lawyer who represented the city, said only: “The city has a lot of sympathy for the family but is pleased by the court’s decision.”

Middlebrooks rejected all of Lewis’ efforts to blame Hayashi or city officials for Claypoole’s death. Since Giese fled when Hayashi tried to pull him over for speeding, the officer was justified in pursuing him at speeds reaching nearly 80 mph, he wrote.

An autopsy found that Giese had marijuana and cocaine in his system and his blood-alcohol content was nearly double the level at which Florida drivers are presumed to be impaired.

Middlebrooks dismissed Lewis’ arguments that Claypoole was an “innocent bystander” and therefore Hayashi had an obligation to make sure she was protected from injury.

“Florida law conclusively holds that no legal duty extends to passengers in a lawbreaking vehicle during a police chase,” he wrote. To rule otherwise, Middlebrooks said, “would be irresponsible.”

He further threw out Lewis’ claims that the city was negligent because it failed to properly train Hayashi about how and when to speed after fleeing suspects. In rejecting Lewis’ arguments that the city violated Claypoole’s constitutional rights, Middlebrooks said there was insufficient evidence that Hayashi hit Giese’s car, causing the crash.



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