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Securing Justice and Accountability: An $11 Million Settlement for Victims of a Tragic Police Shooting

September 29, 2023

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we understand that the lasting impact of tragic events goes far beyond headlines and news cycles. Our hearts ache for all the families affected by the devastating police shooting that unfolded at a high school football game, leaving several children injured and one life tragically cut short.

In the midst of unimaginable grief and loss, the firm sought to bring some measure of justice and accountability to those whose lives were forever changed. On Monday, we reached an $11 million settlement for the victims and their families, resolving three separate lawsuits against the Borough of Sharon Hill. The claims alleged that the Borough failed in its duty to adequately train and oversee the officers involved in this terrible incident.

At the helm of this endeavor was our firm's founder, Michael van der Veen, along with co-counsel Bruce Castor. Together, they went beyond conventional approaches to reach this resolution. What set the case apart was a meticulous report outlining the damages incurred by the victims, supported by an interdisciplinary team of professionals, including computer engineers. While it's customary for liability to be a matter of negotiation in settlement talks, we were resolute: the liability in this case was clear-cut, and therefore non-negotiable.

Armed with this unyielding stance, we entered negotiations thoroughly prepared, presenting evidence from an array of disciplines. Our comprehensive multimedia presentation included a video encapsulating evidence from autopsy reports and body camera footage, as well as a 3D rendering of the incident. Our team utilized state-of-the-art technology, deploying nearly 100 drones to map the site and create a 360-degree visual representation, which served as an invaluable tool for understanding the events as they unfolded. While the monetary investment was considerable, exceeding $200,000 in expert consultations and an additional $45,000 for the visual and video presentations, it was a necessary step. Our philosophy is simple: exhaustive preparation is not an option; it's a requirement.

Often, it’s rare for a law firm to invest so heavily in the preparatory stages of a case, especially during settlement negotiations. However, we believe that an early and thorough investment is critical, especially when the damages are life-altering and the stakes are this high. Our proactive approach enabled us to secure the settlement within weeks after the defendants reviewed our meticulously prepared reports and video evidence.

The settlement allocation includes $10 million for eight plaintiffs we represented, and an additional $1 million for a ninth plaintiff represented by the firm of Green & Schafle. Among our clients were the estate and family of an 8-year-old whose life was unjustly taken in the incident, as well as two women who were the initial targets of the police action. In such sensitive matters, financial restitution is only a part of the broader remedial picture.

In addition to the financial settlement, we were able to negotiate three non-economic conditions aimed at lasting, systemic change. These include the creation of a citizens' advisory board for the hiring of police officers, mandatory simulated training on the use of deadly force for officers, and the naming of a park in honor of the victim, as a lasting memorial to a young life lost.

While no amount of money or legal maneuvering can bring back a lost life or erase the trauma experienced, it's our sincere hope that this settlement serves as a strong message, underlining the imperative need for responsible law enforcement training and community oversight.

For any family grappling with the aftermath of such a tragic event, we stand with you in your quest for justice, and pledge our full legal prowess to restore a sense of dignity and accountability where it is sorely needed.


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