The Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old and an unarmed bystander in December has filed a lawsuit seeking more than $10 million in damages from the teenager’s estate, an unusual legal approach based on a claim that the young man’s actions leading up to the gunfire were “atrocious” and have caused the officer “extreme emotional trauma.”Sounds unfathomably cruel, doesn't it?
There are 4 more paragraphs, including a statement from the estate's lawyer — "It’s a new low for the Chicago Police Department.... First you shoot them, then you sue them. It’s outrageous. I can’t believe that this police officer has the temerity to turn around and sue the estate of the person who he killed." — before you get to the real structure of the lawsuit. Paragraph #6:
Officer Rialmo’s lawsuit, filed Friday in Cook County Circuit Court, was a counterclaim to a wrongful death case brought weeks ago by Mr. LeGrier’s estate....It's a counterclaim! Rialmo didn't file the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed against him. When someone sues you, you're required to answer, and you are intensely motivated to think through whether you have any counterclaims. In fact, if the defendant has claims against the plaintiff that arise from the same incident, he's forced to assert them now or lose them.
I understand why the estate's lawyer wants to portray this as outrageous, but it's not as if the police officer reached out and dragged this family from its private condition of mourning into the brutality of litigation. The officer — who has his own tragedy (especially having unwittingly killed an innocent bystander) — is (and, in his telling, was) responding defensively.