Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel

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Assault and Battery: Choke Holds

     Monthly Law Journal Articles: Civil Liability for Neck Restraints - Part 1, 2013 (12) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Articles: Civil Liability for Neck Restraints - Part 2, 201 (1) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

    An arrestee claimed that a police officer used excessive force by choking him and using pepper spray against him in the course of an arrest for taking eight pairs of shorts from a store.  Upholding a denial of qualified immunity to the officer on an excessive force claim, a federal appeals court ruled that a jury could find that excessive force was used in the deployment of pepper spray or use of choking since the force was on a non-resisting, non-fleeing individual suspected of a completed, non-violent misdemeanor, While some use of force was reasonable here, it was not reasonable to immediately use significant force. The right not to be pepper sprayed or choked under these circumstances was clearly established. Tatum v. Robinson, #16-1908, 2017 U.S. App. Lexis 9342 (8th Cir.).

     A man claimed that officers who came to his house to arrest his brother under a warrant used excessive force against him when he answered the door, lying on top of him, using a chokehold, and using pepper spray. The jury awarded the plaintiff over $2 million in damages, which was reduced by $500,000 to $1,611,656.52 by the trial court. A federal appeals court found that the jury's award and their decision to believe the plaintiff's version of the incident were supported by the evidence, and that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity. It rejected the officers' argument that if they mistakenly believed that the plaintiff was resisting them that they could use any amount of force as they were only entitled in that instance to use force reasonably necessary. A "reasonable officer would have known it violated clearly established law to use a chokehold on a non-resisting arrestee who had surrendered, pepper-spray him and apply such knee pressure on his neck and back that it would cause the collapse of five vertebrae in his cervical spine."It also found that the trial court failed to adequately explain its reasons for reducing the amount of attorneys' fees and in denying the plaintiff pre- and post-judgment interest, so further proceedings were required. Barnard v. Theobald, #11-16655, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 13415 (9th Cir.).
     In a federal civil rights lawsuit over an arrestee's death, genuine issues of fact as to whether the arresting officer was justified in using a choke hold to subdue the arrestee precluded summary judgment for the officer. Griffith v. Coburn, No. 05-2720, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 426 (6th Cir.). [N/R]
     In lawsuit claiming that officers used excessive force, including a chokehold, in attempting to place a man under arrest, resulting in his death, trial court found not to have abused its discretion in barring expert testimony concerning excessive force. The Plaintiff sought to introduce such testimony by a police department Office of Professional Standards inspector and a police sergeant who investigated the claim of excessive force during the arrest, and to ask them whether the officer used excessive force or violated departmental General Orders, policies or procedures. The appeals court upheld a trial court ruling that the "probative value" of such evidence was "substantially outweighed" by the danger of unfair prejudice, and that it would not assist the jury in reaching a decision, but rather would cause "confusion." Court also upholds ruling barring evidence concerning the department's General Orders on the appropriate use of force, since the issue of whether or not the officer violated a departmental regulation was different from whether his use of force was unconstitutional. Thompson v. City of Chicago, No. 04-3177, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 31138 (7th Cir. December 20, 2006)  [N/R]
     Trial court's determination that a trooper that detained a shopper in a grocery store did not use a choke hold in the apprehension was supported by the evidence that the officer had grabbed the detainee around the shoulders, rather than by the throat or neck, as well as officer's testimony that he never used choke holds and had never been taught or trained to use them. Wasserman v. Bartholomew, No. S-9604, 38 P.3d 1162 (Alaska 2002). [N/R] 
             311:163 New York City settles choke hold death case for $2.94 million. Baez v. Livoti, N.Y Sup. Ct., Bronx, New York, Reported in The New York Times, National Edition, p. A23, October 2, 1998.
     306:84 Jury awards $45 million to surviving family of 25- year-old double amputee motorist who died following altercation with officer who pulled him over; pepper spray and neck hold used to restrain motorist. Mallet v. City of Phoenix, Phoenix Superior Court, Phoenix, Arizona, reported in The Chicago Tribune, p. 16 (March 13, 1998).
     304:51 Federal appeals court overturns injunction against California Highway Patrol officers using carotid hold except when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm. Nava v. City of Dublin, 121 F.3d 453 (9th Cir. 1997).
     270:84 Federal court enjoins California Highway Patrol officers from using carotid hold except when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm Nava v. California Highway Patrol, No C 93-01309 CW, U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Calif, December 21, 1994
     273:131 Parents of youth who died after police cadet used carotid neck restraint hold on their son receive $450,000 settlement in suit against city alleging negligent training Hampton v. City of San Diego, Cal, San Diego County Super Ct, Cal, No 652716, June 27, 1994, reported in 38 ATLA L. Rep.140 (May 1995).
     City to pay $75 million and lifetime medical bills to man placed in an apparent permanent coma by officer's use of a choke hold; settlement cost may reach $34 million Edwards v. City of Miami, U.S. Dist. Ct., Miami, Fla, The New York Times, National Ed, p. A6 (July 1, 1993).
     Supreme Court overturns injunction issued against LA police regarding use of choke holds. City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 103 S.Ct. 1660 (1983).

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