Slager files suit against police organization over terminated legal defense benefits

VIDEO: Slager files lawsuit against police benefits organization

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The former North Charleston Police officer facing a murder charge following the shooting death of a motorist filed a lawsuit against a police organization he says terminated legal defense benefits.

Michael Slager, who is accused of fatally shooting Walter Scott after a traffic stop on April 4, is suing the Southern States Police Benevolent Association. Slager's attorney filed the suit in federal court Tuesday accusing the company of breach of contract, bad faith and unfair insurance practices.

According to the organization's website, the group provides benefits to officers including legal services.

The suit states Slager had reinstated his plan "on or about Jan. 31, 2013" after having discontinued it in June, 2012, and "continued to pay his $23.50 premium every month thereafter through April, 2015."

Slager's suit claims the group dropped his coverage without properly investigating what happened.

According to court documents, Southern States Police Benefit Association issued a wallet card stating "for any duty-related shooting or action which results in death or serious injury, an attorney will be sent to you." The card also states assistance in criminal matters "exclude intentional criminal activity or drug-related crimes," the suit alleges.

Slager's suit states that on April 8, four days after the shooting, and the day after his initial attorney withdrew from the case, Slager petitioned the company for new legal representation. The company denied the request, the suit states, and in a letter explained that "'upon review with your [the] case, (sic)' it would not provide benefits under the intentional acts exclusion as it had determined that Officer Slager had 'committed an intentional, deliberate and/or illegal act, either civilly or criminally.'"

Slager's attorney, however, said it is too early to determine that.

The suit claims the company "conducted no investigation whatsoever between April 7, 2015 and April 8, 2015, upon which it could have concluded that Officer Slager was not  entitled to coverage for a legal defense under his Legal Defense Benefit plan."

The suit seeks damages and fees to cover Slager's legal defense.

Slager was arrested three days after the shooting after cell phone footage of the incident surfaced. He was fired from the North Charleston Police Department and charged with murder.

Slager has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. A trial date has not been set.

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