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Tuesday, Oct 21, 2014

Judge tosses lawsuit by St. Pete police killer’s widow

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Published:   |   Updated: April 9, 2014 at 10:18 AM

ST. PETERSBURG — A federal judge on Tuesday threw out a lawsuit filed by Christine Lacy, who wanted to be compensated more than a quarter-million dollars after authorities destroyed her house and possessions in a fatal standoff with her husband.

On Jan. 24, 2011, Lacy’s husband, Hydra, fatally shot K-9 Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger during a standoff in her house at 3734 28th Ave. S. Authorities punched holes in the roof to insert cameras to search for him, and ultimately the house was declared structurally unsound and leveled. Hydra Lacy was killed in a shootout.

One of the defendants listed in the lawsuit was the Balboa Insurance Group, the California company through which Christine Lacy had a homeowner’s insurance policy.

But Balboa’s attorneys asked U.S. District Court Judge Virginia M. Hernandez Covington to dismiss the lawsuit because the insurance had been purchased by the lender for the property, BAC Home Loans Servicing, because Lacy wasn’t paying her mortgage.

As such, it was designed to protect BAC Home Loans Servicing, not Lacy, and it didn’t cover personal effects within the structure, Balboa’s attorneys argued.

Christine Lacy had listed among her losses 20 bars of soap, a Prada purse worth $400, a $2,500 grill, a new stove worth $700, seven Coach purses worth $1,000, an $800 Burch and Stone bar, 10 pairs of eyeglasses worth $200, a new washer and dryer worth $800 each, an Ethan Allen king-size bedroom set worth $5,000, a $1,500 gaming system, a $2,500 bar and stereo equipment worth $2,100.

In a March 2011 filing with the city, she claimed she also had two $800 diamond rings from her first and second marriages.

Balboa also argued there was a provision in its insurance policy excluding coverage for “abusive use,” in this case Hydra Lacy setting a tragedy in motion by firing upon police officers.

Christine Lacy’s lawsuit was also filed against the city of St. Petersburg, then-Mayor Bill Foster, who ordered Lacy’s house destroyed, and then-Police Chief Chuck Harmon, whose officers got into a gunbattle with Hydra Lacy.

The city asked Hernandez Covington to throw out the lawsuit because, among other things, a city can only be held liable for an incident if it occurred as the result of some official policy or “custom” that prompted an employee to act in a particular way.

The Hydra Lacy incident, by contrast, was an isolated incident, one in which officers were responding to a specific set of circumstances.

Hernandez Convington agreed with the city on this point, and Lacy herself conceded she had failed to pinpoint some policy or custom at play.

Similarly, the city’s lawyers scoffed at Lacy’s claim that the destruction and demolition constituted a land-taking, such as one used by governments when they take property to expand a road and compensate the property owners to do so.

“Damage or destruction that occurs as an incidental consequence of lawful acts by the government do not constitute a compensable taking,” the city’s lawyers argued.

Hernandez Covington said Lacy could refile her lawsuit, but she has to do so by April 25.

sthompson@tampatrib.com. (727) 215-6504.

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