BY GARY GERARD, TIMES-UNION
SOUTH BEND – A federal lawsuit claims The Papers Inc. and one of its employees, three bail recover agents, a bail bond company and an insurance company are liable for damages resulting from the death of a Cromwell man.
The lawsuit was filed Aug. 23 in the U.S. District Court for the northern district of Indiana in South Bend.
A similar suit was filed in Kosciusko Circuit Court June 6.
Phillip Kalamaros, of Hunt Suedhoff Kalamaros LLP, St. Joseph, Mich., is representing The Papers. He said Monday he hadn’t seen the federal case, but has filed a motion to dismiss in the case in circuit court.
Both lawsuits allege improper conduct by the defendants resulted in the death of Gary Helman.
The federal suit was filed by Gary’s mother, Atta Belle Helman, and Gary’s brother Larry Dwayne Helman, as special administrators of Gary Helman’s estate.
Larry Helman also suffered gunshot wounds during the confrontation that killed Gary Helman.
All three lived in a home at 9174 Doswell Blvd., Cromwell. All three were in the residence when the shooting occurred Aug. 24, 2014.
At the time of the shooting, Gary Helman was free on bond and there was a warrant for his arrest.
The suit alleges that bail recovery agents Tadd Martin, Daniel Foster and Michael Thomas, working on behalf of Barnett’s Bail Bonds owners Myra and Michael Barnett, engaged “in a cooperative scheme to apprehend Gary Helman” to avoid forfeiture of the bond in his criminal case.
While trying to locate Helman, the suit alleges, (Stacy) Staley, as operator of the website StaceyPageOnline.com in her capacity as an employee of The Papers Inc., “was in the process of covering news stories in relation to Gary Helman.”
The suit claims, “Through the … efforts of all defendants, a scheme originated whereby Staley would use her status as a reporter or befriend and locate Gary Helman for the purpose of setting up and initiating a confrontation that would lead to the aprehension of Gary Helman, and publicity for the news stories which may emanate from such a confrontation.”
The suit further alleges that the defendants “put in place a plan for Staley to interview Gary Helman” at his home. The suit characterizes the interview as a “ruse” used to provide information to the bail recovery agents.
“The defendants together colluded, conspired and otherwise acted to induce and encourage one another to bring about a violent home invasion.”
The defendants were warned by local law enforcement not to attempt to apprehend Helman because of the potential for a violent confrontation, the suit says.
On the day of the shooting, Staley interviewed Helman and “took care to take note of the number of occupants in the home, their locations within … the home and the nature of their clothing,” according to the lawsuit.
The suit further claims that after leaving the home, Staley relayed that information to Martin, Thomas and Foster.
The three bail recover agents then arrived on the scene armed and attempted to apprehend Helman.
“… Foster violently approached the front door of the home … and began screaming and violently beating upon it. Simultaneously, Martin and Thomas attacked the rear of the home. … Within seconds of entering the home, Martin engaged and attacked Atta Helman and Gary Helman, resulting in an immediate and anticipated gunfight.
“Martin used his weapon to shoot Gary Helman multiple times, murdering him in the process. Martin fired several rounds while in the home and shot Larry Helman in the back while he was on the porch attempting to fend off Thomas.
“… Gary Helman managed to attempt to defend himself and his family by returning fie on Martin, wounding him. … As a result, Martin exited and retreated from the home while Atta Helman hysterically cried over the shooting of her twin boys in her own home.”
The lawsuit claims the defendants violated Helman’s civil rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution and comprises seven counts:
Counts I, II, III, V and VI allege violation of civil rights pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. – 1983 – general allegations, failure to protect, supervisor liability, claim of the estate for wrongful death under Indiana law and survival action for Gary Helman’s deprivation of rights.
Count IV alleges violation of civil rights pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. – 1985(3) – conspiracy to interfere with civil rights.
Count VII claims a breach of contract and violations of Indiana’s deceptive business practices act.
The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory damages for medical and psychological bills, lost wages, personal injuries, severe emotional distress, property damage, psychological harm, mental anguish, expenses and the past and future physical and mental pain and suffering the plaintiffs have incurred.
The suit also seeks punitive damages against the defendants, attorney’s fees and reasonable expenses incurred in the litigation, treble damages and attorney’s fees on the claims for breach of contract and deceptive business practices and damages consistent with wrongful death statutes.
The plaintiffs also request a trial by jury.
The motion to dismiss, filed on behalf of The Papers in the state case, disputes many of the facts alleged by the plaintiffs.
The motion to dismiss claims the plaintiffs complaint is “full of vague allegations and conclusory statements with no specific facts to support said allegations.”
Plaintiffs fail to show how The Papers “was negligent in failing to train and supervise…” its employee.
“The plaintiffs have not pled a cognizable claim against The Papers Inc. It owed no duty to Atta Bell or Larry Helman,” the motion states, and “Staley could not have foreseen any additional harm beyond what already existed as a result of illegal acts of Atta and Larry Helman. The fugitive Gary Helman was already being aided and harbored … in their home. … Staley did not owe or violate any duty to Atta or Larry Helman.
“The Papers Inc had no indication or reason to believe that the alleged actions of Staley would present a new harm to Atta and Larry Helman,” and “The Papers Inc did not proximately cause the incident.”
The motion asks that the plaintiffs’ case against The Papers be dismissed without prejudice.
Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael W. Reed has yet to rule on the motion.