Hall County settled with a woman for $90,000 over a lawsuit related to her arrest two years ago

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Hall County Government and a Flowery Branch woman have reached a $90,000 settlement in connection with a lawsuit following her 2021 arrest.

Patricia Carder filed a lawsuit in 2022 against Hall County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Kenneth Phillips and Deputy Robert Waters, alleging improprieties in her arrest on Sept. 26, 2021.

Authorities were initially called to her home over allegations that Carder had kicked her son out of the home the night prior. Her son had returned to the home with another family member to retrieve his possessions.

Carder is seen on body camera footage initially refusing to open her door for the officers, stating she had the right to kick her son out of her home.

She eventually opens the door to the officers and tells them she has COVID-19.

"I've got COVID, I hope I get you infected," Carder can be heard saying in the footage.

One of the officers then grabs Carder and places her under arrest, claiming obstruction of an officer.

While the civil lawsuit from Carder initially included 11 separate counts, including claims of false imprisonment, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution, battery and more, the federal court later determined 10 of those counts were unfounded. The one count that remained in question in the case was unlawful entry in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Steve Jones said the video footage was inconclusive as to whether the officer unlawfully entered Carder's home. Specifically, Jones cited "the angle of Defendant Phillips's camera and a slight visual distortion, with the position of Defendant Phillips's hand and Plantiff's upper body in relation to the door threshold."

The lawsuit claims Carder was still standing inside her home when she was grabbed by the officer.

Hall County Government recently agreed to a $90,000 settlement in the case, but said the settlement did not indicate acceptance of any wrongdoing.

Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch released a statement on the matter Tuesday afternoon, stating he was not consulted by county attorneys prior to the settlement.

“At least during my tenure, it has always been, without exception, the practice of Hall County Government attorneys to consult with me on any civil cases that involve Sheriff’s Office personnel, but that was not the case in this matter,” said Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch. “My understanding is the county attorneys felt a settlement would be more financially expedient, rather than allowing a jury to hear the accusations against our deputies. However, a settlement for any amount can give the inference of unlawful actions or deeds by our deputies, which is not the case in this incident.”

In response to the statement by the sheriff's office, Hall County Government released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"This case was settled based on the recommendation of legal counsel, who determined that settlement was the most financially prudent decision for the County based on the cost of trial and attorney’s fees," the statement from Hall County Government reads. "Legal counsel did not appropriately communicate the settlement agreement to the Sheriff’s Office and has apologized for this oversight."

“Going forward, the County Attorney knows to consult me before settling any civil actions involving Sheriff’s Office personnel," Sheriff Couch said. "In some rare cases, settling a civil matter may be the best course of action. I don’t believe that was appropriate for this case. That said, we will use this incident – and the outcome - as a learning opportunity across the agency.”

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