UVa Student Seeks $40M in Lawsuit against Virginia, ABC

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March 26, 2014

The University of Virginia student who was detained outside a Charlottesville grocery store for buying sparkling water says the physical and emotional toll is worth $40 million.

Elizabeth Daly, now 21, is suing the commonwealth and seven special agents with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, according to paperwork filed Tuesday in Richmond Circuit Court.

"I'm not suggesting that she hasn't suffering a harm, a compensable harm, if that, but this is a pretty ambitious lawsuit," said Robert E. Byrne Jr., a trial and managing attorney with Charlottesville group MartinWren, P.C.

Daly and some friends were buying food for an event on grounds in April 2013. Among the items was a case of LaCroix sparkling water.

ABC agents in the parking lot thought the then-20-year-old was buying alcohol and surrounded her car. One of the agents pulled out a gun. Daly said she thought their badges were fake, and she began frantically began to escape from them.

"Here, the plaintiff is contending that the officers violated her right to be free from an unreasonable search and seizure essentially under the Fourth Amendment," said Byrne, who has no connection to the case.

Daly was arrested, but the charges against her were later dropped. The ABC has apologized and reformed its policies in response to the incident, but Daly is suing on 12 counts.

"The plaintiff most likely expected that some of these counts would be essentially struck from the lawsuit as the case progressed, and they wanted to keep all of their options available," Byrne said.

The lawsuit alleges Daly experiences mental and physical pain, charging inconvenience, emotional distress and embarrassment.

"I can say this," Byrne said. "I'd be shocked if she got $40 million."

The lawsuit could end up in the hands of a jury, who would determine how much Daly could get.

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