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Wrongful death suit settled for $250,000

A multi-million dollar wrongful death suit for a fugitive shot by U.S. marshals in a west Medford parking lot in 2012 has been settled for $250,000.

The family of James "Jimmy" Georgeson, 20, who was shot three times after attempting to escape capture in the Albertsons parking lot on West Main Street, had originally sought $1.5 million from the federal government.

Passenger Kaiden Haight, Georgeson's best friend and a minor at the time of the shooting, had filed a separate $1.2 million suit, which was included in the settlement. Both cases were represented by Eugene-based attorney David Moule.

According to documents filed Jan. 21 in Jackson County Civil Court seeking to settle Georgeson's estate, Georgeson's mother, Seppie Greico, his father, James Leroy Georgeson, younger sister, Karly Greico, and Haight agreed to settle the lawsuit with U.S. attorneys during private mediation in November. Moule said they settled for $250,000, with a quarter of the gross sum going to Haight in a separate suit.

The three family members agreed to split the proceeds from the remaining $187,500 equally. Moule said by federal law, no more than 25 percent of the recovery sum may go towards attorney fees.

"The family was disappointed with it," Moule said. "But they also recognized the difficulties in going to trial."

Georgeson, who was unarmed, was killed at approximately 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 5, 2012. Officers with the U.S. Marshals Service had sought to arrest Georgeson for failing to complete an inpatient drug program, a violation of his probation stemming from a 2009 conviction for assaulting a marshal.

According to court documents, the marshals sought to capture Georgeson in a sting by having an informant, Mario Zaragoza, ask to meet Georgeson at Albertsons. The informant told marshals there were passengers with Georgeson in the Dodge Durango SUV belonging to Georgeson's father.

Marshals attempted to box in the SUV using their unmarked vehicles, but Georgeson tried to flee, first ramming a pillar in the parking lot, then attempting to get away from the vehicles, hitting the building and marshals' vehicles. Marshals began shooting at Georgeson inside the vehicle as he attempted to flee. About 20 shots were fired, and he was hit three times. The complaint in the case alleged that Haight, who was in the front passenger seat, suffered physical injuries and psychological trauma during the shooting.

Moule and the family had argued that the government was negligent in having an informant set up a rendezvous in a busy grocery store parking lot, but the argument was quashed in U.S. District Court. That left Moule to argue the marshals used more force than necessary.

"Trying to defeat the government over the word of respected U.S. marshals is difficult, so we compromised," Moule said. "Rather than take that risk of trial in who's right and who's wrong, we negotiated."

A private mediator worked with Georgeson's family and the federal government in November. The process took several weeks.

"It was very stressful for the family. Extremely stressful," Moule said.

"It didn't settle right away," Moule said. "It failed, and then it worked."

A Jackson County grand jury determined that the marshals' use of deadly force was justified. The settlement document says the agreement is not an admission of liability by the United States, but is a compromise for all parties and avoids the risks and expenses of further litigation.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.