NEW YORK (AP) - A Manhattan woman was awarded over $400,000 on Friday by a federal jury after suing New York City and its police department, saying she suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was thrown to the ground by a police sergeant while serving as a medic for protesters during 2012 Occupy Wall Street events.
Mary Tardif, 33, won the $431,250 award nearly a decade after suing in 2013. She had sought unspecified damages for injuries she incurred as a medic for protesters at multiple rallies staged by the grassroots movement that began in Manhattan, spread globally, and was known for its refrain: "We are the 99 percent."
In an interview, Tardif called the verdict "very vindicating."
"I feel like I have actually known justice for the first time," said Tardif, who works at Broadway Advocacy Coalition where she does sign language interpreting for Broadway shows and serves as a disability adviser.
Tardif, who has had epilepsy since she was 19, said she considered the verdict, which found "battery" had occurred but no assault, a win for those "occupiers who never got to see this day or never got to have their day in court."
"It feels like a win for all of us. I wish I could share it with them. There were so many," she said, speaking of others who were injured at rallies, as she celebrated at a restaurant near the courthouse with her service dog, Daisy, a black Labrador Retriever who was with Tardif throughout the trial but was hidden from jurors.
Nick Paolucci, a New York City Law Department spokesperson, said the city was "disappointed with this result" and was reviewing options.
He noted that a jury in 2018 had rejected the claims before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan reinstated the case, citing flaws in the first trial.
Paolucci said Tardif "was never thrown to the ground, as she claimed. Additionally, and unfortunately, the jury was not aware that the plaintiff had introduced new injuries at this second trial that were never alleged in the initial case."
During opening statements, city attorney Michael Viviano said a police sergeant who has since been promoted to lieutenant grabbed onto Tardif's arms on March 21, 2012, and moved her away as police were clearing a park in Union Square because she had put her hands on a police officer's back.
"The plaintiff then falls to the ground. The plaintiff was not thrown," he said.
Reza Rezvani, an attorney arguing on Tardif's behalf, told jurors in an opening statement that the sergeant grabbed her with both of his hands.
"He throws her to the ground. Her head hits the pavement," he said.
Tardif maintained in her 2013 lawsuit that her epileptic condition was often ignored after she suffered violent abuses from police officers who arrested her at several protests while she served as a medic. The lawsuit said they kicked her, walked on her limbs and tossed her to the ground.
According to trial evidence and Tardif's statements, the violent encounter at Union Square caused her head to slam into the ground with such force that she was left with a permanent brain injury that leaves her unable to work except for a job where she has flexible hours and can sometimes call in sick when she is completely immobile.