Deputies, Police Copter Deployed in Accidental Highway Chase

Courthouse News – by Izzy Kapnick

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CN) – Two South Florida women claim in court that they were surrounded by sheriff’s deputies, a helicopter and snarling K-9s after a mixup at a local car dealership made them the accidental target of a highway police pursuit.

Lauren Licalzi, 54, and her niece Bryana Rivera, 24, say they were driving home from work in their loaner vehicle from North Palm Motors, when they were pulled over and then encircled by a swarm of deputies with guns drawn.  

In a lawsuit uploaded Tuesday in Palm Beach court, Licalzi and Rivera claim North Palm Motors had mistakenly reported the loaner-vehicle license plate stolen, triggering a felony theft alert.

An automatic license plate reader on the highway tagged the 2018 Hyundai Sonata and notified the Broward Sheriff’s Office, setting the fiasco in motion, the lawsuit says.

Pointing their pistols at the women while a police helicopter unit hovered overhead, the deputies ordered Licalzi and Rivera out of the car and told them to walk backwards with their hands raised, the lawsuit says. The deputies slapped handcuffs on them as the duo tried to figure out what was going on.

Rivera was put in the back of a patrol car, the lawsuit says. Both women were interrogated.

The mixup was resolved when the deputies contacted North Palm Motors’ service manager, the lawsuit says. The sheriff’s office at that point realized  Licalzi was authorized to drive the vehicle.

The plaintiffs’ attorney James Sposato from the law firm of Ritter Chusid claimed the women were left emotionally shaken from the ordeal. At least a half-dozen deputies were ready to shoot them down, he said.

“They went right to the hospital from the scene. Licalzi was treated for anxiety,” Sposato said by phone.

Sposato said that at this stage in the litigation, the Broward Sheriff’s Office is not being held liable for the Dec. 2017 incident. The sole defendant in the case is North Palm Motors LLC dba Napleton’s Car Rental Center. The plaintiffs seek damages for “severe and permanent psychological injuries,” according to the complaint.

Licalzi had obtained the loaner vehicle from North Palm Motors while her vehicle was being repaired, according to the complaint.

The rental center closed in the summer of 2018.

Representatives for the defendant have not responded to a request for comment.

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