A New Hampshire judge overruled a jury verdict that awarded $1.5 million to State Trooper James Conrad, who claimed he was wrongfully detained by his superiors in state police headquarters.
While detained, Conrad suffered a nervous breakdown, threatened suicide, was arrested, and committed to the state psychiatric hospital, and was fired. He continues to suffer from post-traumatic issues
Judge Larry Smukler said in his order that state police officials were immune from the claims because they acted within the scope of their duties and “with a reasonable belief” their conduct was lawful when they held Conrad against his will at police headquarters in November 2007.
Mark Myrdek, the former state police lieutenant who tackled Conrad, also had immunity because he acted within the scope of his employment and “did not act in a wanton and reckless manner,” Smukler said in the order, which is dated July 2.
The order set aside the verdict of a Merrimack County jury, which awarded Conrad $1.5 million in May after deciding the state police and Myrdek were both liable for falsely imprisoning the trooper during the November 2007 incident.
Conrad’s wife had accused him of being in her home in violation of a protective order. His superiors opened an administrative review to determine if department sanctions (not criminal charges) were justified. Conrad refused to answer questions until the next dayt, when a union lawyer could be present.
He tried to leave and was tackled at the door and held for two hours.
State police officials testified that they acted out of concern for the safety of Conrad and his family when they held him and called in the Concord Police, who arrested the trooper and had him admitted to the state psychiatric hospital..
Given the behavior Conrad displayed during the incident – including using “highly inappropriate language” while talking about his wife, and punching a door in police headquarters – the police “could have reasonably believed” that holding Conrad in protective custody was lawful, Smukler said in the order.
Yesterday, Conrad’s attorney Chuck Douglas said he will appeal the order, which he called a “mistake.”
“Acting as a 13th juror, he’s overturned a unanimous verdict based on evidence that he does not cite in his opinion,” Douglas said. “I just don’t get it. He obviously had a problem with the case, but the jury didn’t.”