Miami Woman Injured in Crash Says Police Failed to Warn Drivers of Ongoing Chase

A new lawsuit says police negligence led to a collision at NE 82nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
A new lawsuit says police negligence led to a collision at NE 82nd Street and Biscayne Boulevard. Screenshot from red-light camera footage
When she was broadsided by a woman in a stolen car, Amanda Robinson had no idea what had happened. In the early morning of August 9, 2017, she was driving south on Biscayne Boulevard when another motorist plowed into the side of her Kia Sorento. First responders used the jaws of life to free her from the crushed SUV.

"I just remember the ambulance, and they were cutting me out of the car and all I could smell was gasoline," Robinson says today.

The 35-year-old spent ten days in the hospital, where she was treated for a broken hip and other injuries. After her release, she spent three months in a wheelchair. To this day, Robinson says, her feet tingle when she wakes up in the morning, and walking is painful.

Now Robinson has filed a lawsuit against the Village of El Portal and North Bay Village. She says the two police departments failed to properly notify her that a dangerous police pursuit was underway that morning. The complaint accuses both departments of negligence and claims the crash was preventable.

"This is just a situation where they fell well beneath the policing standards they should be held to," says her attorney, Jonah Wolfson.

Police reports, dispatch logs, and red-light camera footage help to reconstruct what transpired that morning. Records indicate Surfside police spotted the stolen 1997 Honda Accord and tried to stop the driver, who fled southbound on Harding Avenue. North Bay Village officers picked up the chase as the driver, later identified as 20-year-old Laqasia Paige, headed west on the 79th Street Causeway and eventually onto NE 82nd Street.

During the chase, an assisting officer from El Portal parked his patrol car just north of NE 82nd Street on Biscayne Boulevard. Video footage shows the officer did not stop traffic or turn on the cruiser's emergency lights. Minutes later, as Robinson drove south on Biscayne, Paige blew through a red light and crashed into the driver's side of the Kia. Robinson, Paige, and Paige's passenger were rushed to the hospital with incapacitating injuries.
In an arrest affidavit filed at the time, North Bay Village Officers P. Kennedy and P. Guevara claimed they called off the chase when they arrived at NE 82nd Street and NE 10th Avenue, about a half-mile from the crash scene. But Wolfson believes the officers were still in hot pursuit of Paige when she ran the red light, because footage from the intersection shows the North Bay Village patrol car arriving four to five seconds after the collision.

"I can't imagine four seconds later he could have gotten there if he wasn't following in hot pursuit," Wolfson says of the North Bay Village officer. "I just don't think that affidavit is accurate based on the video."

North Bay Village Atorney Daniel Espino says the municipality does not comment on pending litigation. El Portal's village attorney did not respond to a request for comment about the case.

Two years after the crash, Robinson says she is still recovering physically and financially. The hair and makeup artist says she's had trouble working since the collision because it's hard to stay on her feet, and she's mired in more than $69,000 in outstanding medical bills. Her SUV was totaled in the wreck, and driving her new Jeep still feels daunting, Robinson says.

Looking back, she believes the crash could have been prevented if the El Portal officer at the intersection had warned her and other drivers that a police chase was underway.

"All he had to do was just put on his lights and stop the traffic," Robison says.

Neither North Bay Village nor the Village of El Portal has yet to respond in court. 
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Jessica Lipscomb is news editor of Miami New Times and an enthusiastic Florida Woman. Born and raised in Orlando, she has been a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
Contact: Jessica Lipscomb