$50M lawsuit filed against city of Detroit after lawyer killed in crash involving officer

Posted at 9:16 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-28 21:16:18-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — More than a year after her father was killed in a deadly crash with a Detroit police officer, the daughter of attorney Clifford Woodards II says she’s ready to fight for justice in civil court.

She’s filed a $50 million lawsuit after police say the officer who struck her appear to be speeding and failed to stop at a light.

An autopsy showed Woodards died of severe trauma following a crash with Detroit police. After a year of mourning, his daughter says she’s now taking the next step to get justice.

While 29-year-old officer Teaira Funderberg faces as much as 15 years in prison on charges of involuntary manslaughter and will neglect of duty for the death of 58-year-old Woodards, there’s a pain felt each day by his daughter over the absence of her father.

“I’m 5 months pregnant. If you ask me the value of my unborn child, it’s invaluable. I want to make sure he’s remembered for what he meant to me, my family and community,” Melissa Woodards-Connelly said.

A new lawsuit filed by attorney Arnold Reed on her behalf seeks to hold the city and the officer who is suspended without pay accountable. Woodards-Connelly points out COVID-19-related court delays have prolonged justice.

“It’s intensified that loss,” Woodards-Connelly said. “Officer Funderberg had that opportunity to make a different choice, to choose a different path. She could have chosen to slow down and not go through that red light.”

The loss that resulted from the crash on Feb. 8, 2021 at West Chicago and Jeffries Service Drive is something Reed says has caused irreparable harm.

“The family didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. It was robbed from them, snatched from them. We have filed a $50 million lawsuit, but no amount of money will make Melissa whole,” Reed said. “We’re coming to get justice and prevent this type of incident from happening to anybody else.”

The lawsuit alleges negligence, gross negligence and wrongful death.

“It’s been a year. A year more of freedom for the officer to enjoy her kids, holidays, those elemental times I won’t have and won’t get back. We can look forward to swift justice this year. That’s how I keep pressing forward,” Woodards-Connelly said.

Detroit police told 7 Action News a final decision on the officer’s employment will be made at the conclusion of her criminal case. We’ll continue to bring you the latest developments as soon as they happen.