State seeks dismissal of Daly’s $40 million ABC suit

A Virginia ABC store. File photo. A Virginia ABC store. File photo.

Last week, the $40 million dollar lawsuit of 21-year-old third-year UVA student Elizabeth Daly against the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was moved from Richmond Circuit Court to the federal U.S. District Court in Richmond under Judge Henry E. Hudson. Now, the state of Virginia is asking the judge to dismiss the case, according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Daly, who was 20 at the time of her arrest last April, is suing the state and seven agents of the ABC for false arrest and assault and battery for what she claims was a misinformed and excessively forceful procedure in arresting her and her friends for underage possession of alcohol, when in fact she was only carrying bottled water.

Daly is also suing for malicious prosecution for what she claims was an attempt by the officers to withhold information of the incident after she was charged, including that ABC officers were told by police over the phone that it appeared Daly and her friends did not know the people who approached and beat on her car were ABC agents. Daly’s lawsuit seeks compensation for the post-traumatic stress Daly claims to have suffered as a result of the incident.

The state of Virginia is now requesting a dismissal of the case, claiming in a brief filed on Tuesday that Daly is seeking a “shocking level of damages.” According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch report, the state says that the agents had probable cause to approach Daly and her friends and that their approach was lawful, thereby asserting a “complete lack of foundation” for Daly’s complaints.

According to the report, the state pointed out that the officers’ badges were clearly displayed when they approached the vehicle and that the case of water was placed on the floor of the vehicle where it could not be seen. The defendants therefore argue that the officers’ actions were justified under the statute of qualified immunity, which protects government officials from accusations of violating plaintiffs’ rights unless they violated a “clearly established” constitutional right.—Matthew Fay