The family of slain University of Wisconsin junior Brittany Zimmermann filed to settle their lawsuit against Dane County, a settlement which will most likely not be accepted.
The Estate of Brittany Zimmermann, Kevin Zimmermann and Jean Zimmermann filed to settle the wrongful death lawsuit brought against Dane County Aug. 25.
According to Dane County Court documents, the three plaintiffs “offer to settle this action and all causes of action contained therein as against all defendants for the amount of $49,999.00, together with taxable costs and disbursements.”
The amount requested for each individual falls just under the $50,000 municipal limit on local government liability.
However, these settlements are rarely accepted, according to Robert Elliott, attorney for the Zimmermann family. Elliott said the offer of settlement is partly just procedural and he expected the defendants not to settle.
According to Elliott, in any civil suit, if someone offers to settle the case, the defendant has 10 days to accept it. If the settlement is not accepted and the plaintiffs go on to win the trial, the plaintiffs are awarded 12 percent of the total awarded money in addition to the money awarded to them at the end of the suit.
For example, if a plaintiff were awarded $100,000 at the conclusion of a suit and the plaintiff previously tried to settle the suit, then the plaintiffs would receive the original $100,000 plus the interest on that sum from the date the settlement was offered.
Elliott said he expects the trial to commence sometime next year.
“You want to get the interest running as soon as possible,” Elliott said.
If the county accepts the offer, the Zimmermann family would be compensated nearly $150,000 and all charges against 911 dispatcher Rita Gahagan and Dane County would be waived.
Zimmermann, then 21, was stabbed in her home at 517 W. Doty St. on April 2, 2008. A call to the Dane County 911 Center was made from her cell phone at 12:20 p.m. and her phone disconnected shortly after.
Gahagan, the dispatcher who received the call, neither returned the call nor dispatched any officers to her residence, thus violating proper 911 rules and procedures.
Gahagan claimed she did not immediately follow-up on the phone call because she heard no signs of a struggle. However, according to search warrants released in December, the 911 tape from Zimmermann’s call depicted “the sound of a woman screaming and … background sounds of a struggle for a short period of time.”
Jordan Gonnering, Zimmermann’s fianc?, found Zimmermann slain in her apartment and called 911 at approximately 1:08 p.m. Police arrived shortly after and found him crying over Zimmermann’s body.
Police recovered 23 swabs of DNA, 10 fingerprints, nine partial footwear prints and 18 blood samples from Zimmermann’s house, but no clear suspect or leads have been named.
A status conference will be held at the Dane County Courthouse today at 2 p.m. for the defendants and plaintiffs, with Judge Mary Ann Sumi presiding.
Dane County Corporation Counsel Marcia MacKenzie was unavailable for comment.