Cushmans seek at least $7.5 million

By J. Taylor Rushing
March 20, 2002

The family of slain police Cpl. Joey Cushman plans to seek at least $7.5 million from the city of Arlington for the June accident that killed their only son.

A notice filed Nov. 30 by the Cushmans' attorney with the city contends that a Tarrant County jury could award damages "in excess of" $7.5 million if the case went to trial. City officials have blocked access to the document, which was viewed by the Star-Telegram on Wednesday. The Texas attorney general has advised the city that the notice is a public record.

Cushman, 27, was accidentally killed June 7 when he was shot in the head by officer Blane Shaw during a training exercise. The Cushman family is contending that better supervision and procedures could have prevented the accident.

"Our only son was taken from us," said James Cushman, 52, the officer's father. "I expect to live another 25 or 30 years, and I will certainly miss his love and companionship for every bit of that time."

The legal notice was filed to meet a 180-day deadline set by state law to preserve the right to sue.

The Cushmans' attorney, Dwain Dent of Fort Worth, also sent City Secretary Cindy Kemp a Nov. 30 settlement offer of $7.5 million, with a Dec. 31 expiration date. Dent said city officials did not respond to the offer.

City Attorney Jay Doegey said state law may not allow the Cushmans to sue the city.

"In Texas, as well as many other states, the law considers these matters to be workers' compensation issues," Doegey said.

State law gives the Cushman family until June 7, 2003, to file a lawsuit. Because the city of Arlington is self-insured, any damages would likely be paid out of a self-insurance fund.

State law required the November legal notice to include a monetary claim for damages. Dent said the $7.5 million amount was based on jury verdicts in similar cases as well as circumstances particular to Cushman's life.

He said Cushman's parents especially depended on their son because multiple sclerosis has caused James Cushman, a former Fort Worth policeman, to use a wheelchair.

"Joey Cushman was an extraordinary part of his parents' lives," Dent said. "He did yardwork for them. He washed the car for them. He helped out on vacations with them."