32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

Sheriff's office faces multiple civil lawsuits

Photo: Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar

Indian River County’s top lawman has been sued and is headed to trial next week for an automobile accident involving one of his deputies that happened three years ago. 

Defending himself, his employees and his department in court is not that uncommon for Sheriff Deryl Loar, who is currently involved in three civil suits. More often than not, for a case to go forward, the sheriff himself has to be named.

Brown v. Loar is set to go to trial Aug. 8 in the courtroom of Circuit 19 Judge Paul Kanarek.

Olivia Brown, the plaintiff in the case, was sitting in the passenger seat of a black Nissan Altima when a deputy in an SUV-style Chevrolet Tahoe shifted into reverse and smashed into the car.

Timothy Felice, of Felice & Ehrlich in Palm Beach Gardens, said Brown and an acquaintance went to the location to attend a child’s birthday party and parked in a line of cars on the side of a residential street.

At the time of the accident, the deputy told the responding officers that he didn’t see the Nissan. He had been searching for a fugitive at a nearby residence when Brown and her acquaintance pulled up behind his vehicle.

Her lawyers claim negligence and are seeking damages for injuries Brown alleges she sustained in the June 2014 crash, even though an accident report filed at the time notes no significant damage to either vehicle and that Brown said she was not hurt.

Felice wouldn’t stipulate before trial how Brown was hurt, but said the accident caused a “significant” injury and required “significant” medical treatment.

The Sherriff’s Office has argued that any injuries sustained were caused by Brown and her own negligence.

The two parties attempted mediation in June but court documents show the outcome was impasse.

Under Florida law, auto insurance only covers the first $10,000 when someone is injured in a car accident. If someone’s medical costs soar above that amount, suing is “the only avenue that someone has,” Felice said.

Brown’s case was initially filed against Ronald Adamson, the deputy driving the SUV and the Indian River Sheriff’s office, but was not allowed to go forward.

Indian River County Sheriff’s Office is not a legal entity capable of being sued, successfully argued Adriana Jisa with Purdy, Jolly, Giuffreda & Barranco in Fort Lauderdale in a June 2015 motion to dismiss Brown’s lawsuit.

“To the extent that a governmental entity is liable for any conduct as alleged, such suit is properly brought against the named office holder,” Jisa wrote.

“When suits are brought against this department, the legal entity is the Office of the Sheriff,” said James Harpring, general counsel and undersheriff at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office. “Since at this particular time Loar is the sheriff, he is the person that has to be named in court filings.”

Loar’s legal team, which includes outside counsel on an as-needed basis, is also fighting a suit from a former jail employee, Mario Pratt. Pratt says he was fired because of his race after an October 2013 incident at the jail. The Sheriff’s Office has denied wrongdoing.

The third current lawsuit was brought against the Sheriff by Andrew Coffee IV, who alleges he sustained serious and unnecessary injuries from the bite of a police K-9 dog in the summer of 2013.

Coffee IV has since been charged with murder, attempted murder and other crimes after a March shootout with police that resulted in the death of a 21-year-old woman and the wounding of a deputy.

Paperwork has yet to be filed on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office in response to Coffee IV’s complaint and Harpring declined to comment on open investigations.

“Generally, the philosophy of the sheriff is that if we don’t believe based on our evaluation of the case that there is liability, or to put it another way, if we don’t believe that our employees did anything wrong, then we will vigorously defend the case,” he said.

The courthouse doors are open to anyone who wants to file a lawsuit, Harpring continued.

Complaints themselves don’t indicate a governmental entity did anything wrong.

Nonetheless, none can be ignored, he said, recalling the time a former inmate sued the sheriff alleging he was given commissary items like peanut butter crackers, even though he was allergic.

The jail wouldn’t have provided something like that unless he was purchasing them, but the department still had to prepare a defense, Harping said.

The Indian River Sheriff’s Office pays premiums on a case-by-case basis to the Florida Sherriffs’ Risk Management Fund to cover legal expenses.

Often, a for-profit business will settle pending civil suits because the cost-benefit analysis shows that is more economical than going to court, but the Sheriff’s Office fears that settling civil cases brought against it out of court would open a floodgate of lawsuits. “As a government entity, we have to be better stewards of the tax payer dollars,” Harpring said.