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Westerly answers man’s $475M lawsuit

WAKEFIELD — The town has filed its answers to a Westerly man’s claim that he was illegally arrested at his home on May 17.

Daniel A. Buck, 44, of 186 High St., acting as his own attorney, filed a $475 million civil claim earlier this month against the town of Westerly and Police Corporal Michael Garafola in Washington County Superior Court.

The eight affirmative defense claims made by the town’s attorney in the case, Shannon Gilheeney, of Providence, are contained in a short response filed Wednesday in Washington County Superior Court.

Buck’s equally as brief civil rights complaint seeks monetary damages, punitive damages, psychological damages, personal injury damages, civil rights damages, medical damages, property damages, and assault and battery damages. He asked the court to assess the amount of damages he is entitled to under the unlawful arrest law, to which he affixes copies of definitions of unlawful arrests from Ask a Lawyer online. He also asks that Garafola’s assets be frozen.

In its response, the town claims Buck fails to state a claim against the defendants which relief can be granted; failed to present notice of injury; defendants affirmatively plead immunity; town claims if defendant was injured, which is expressly denied, it was not a result of an action or inaction; defendants plead that the plaintiff’s own negligence was the sole proximate cause of his injuries; deny they were negligent; defendants plead the defense of public duty doctrine; and reserve the right to assert any and all defenses that may become applicable during the course of discovery.

Buck was initially charged with disorderly conduct and resisting legal or illegal arrest after police responded to the house he shares with his mother. Police said they were at the house after a call complaining Buck had cut a tree on his neighbor’s property. The neighbor had asked that Buck be ordered not to trespass. Buck has asked for a copy of the phone call.

Garafola said he went to the house to speak to Buck in the evening regarding the incident, but Buck refused to discuss the matter and claimed he was being harassed. Garafola said he attempted to serve Buck with a no-trespass order as Buck walked back into his house.

The officer said he then warned him he would be arrested and Buck said he would file a claim against Garafola for harassment, police reported.

Garafola said he followed Buck to the house to “make sure he understood the trespass warning so he could not say I failed to warn him.”

Garafola said Buck lunged at him after opening the door and both men fell. Buck was then charged with disorderly conduct. A struggle ensued, according to the report, and Garafola said he used Capstun to subdue Buck. Buck asked to be taken to The Westerly Hospital where he was treated for the pepper spray in his eyes and released. He was then taken to the police station for processing.

Buck insists he was polite to Garafola and claims he was grabbed by the shirt and thrown to the ground.

The charge against Buck was later dismissed during the pretrial hearing in Washington County Superior Court where Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg issued Buck a no-trespassing order with his neighbor.

Meanwhile, a pretrial hearing on Rhode Island State Police charges against Buck claiming he was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, blood alcohol content, .10 to .15, was postponed Thursday when Public Defender Thomas C. Thomasian was unavailable.

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