AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel


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Police Plaintiffs

    Given eyewitness accounts of him drinking and the presence of an open bottle labeled as containing alcohol in a police officer's personal vehicle when he was stopped, there was probable cause to administer a breathalyzer test, as a reasonable person would have believed that he had committed a DUI. He was only charged with driving with an open container of alcohol when the breathalyzer detected no alcohol, and the open container charge was dropped when the liquid in the bottle was shown to have no alcohol. A police deputy superintendent who ordered him prosecuted was entitled to qualified immunity under the circumstances. Seiser v. City of Chicago, #13-1985, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 15473 (7th Cir.).
     Police officials did not violate the Fourth Amendment rights of police officers by searching them after the residents of a home that they were searching accused him of stealing $1,750 in cash during the search. A reasonable person in the plaintiffs' position would not have feared arrest or detention if they had refused the defendants' request to search them for the money. The fact that one of the plaintiffs agreed to the search only because he was taking a nonprescription supplement to clean his colon and therefore had an immediate need to use the restroom and couldn't do so until he had been searched did not turn what occurred into a "seizure." Carter v. City of Milwaukee, #13-2187, (7th Cir.).
     Airline and airline security provider did not breach any duty to protect police officer who worked at airport baggage terminal when they allegedly failed to physically inspect a passenger's checked bag containing unlabeled and unreported chemicals which allegedly emitted smoke which injured officer when he opened bag after it remained unclaimed at baggage area. Di Benedetto v. Pan Am World Service, Inc., #03-7031, 359 F.3d 627 (2nd Cir. 2004). [N/R]
     Police officer seeking to sue city for failing to provide him with proper respiratory or protective equipment, causing him to be injured by exposure to toxic substances in the course of his work related to the rescue and recovery operations from the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center adequately showed a reasonable excuse for his delay in filing the required notice of claim, and that the city had knowledge of the essential facts of his claim given the circumstances of destruction stemming from the attack, the well-publicized allegations of toxic substances in the smoke and debris, and the similar health claims made by many rescue workers. O'Halloran v. City of New York, 770 N.Y.S.2d 583 (Supreme Court, N.Y. County, 2003). [N/R]
     Police officer's work conditions were "abnormal" for purpose of a benefits recovery for psychic injury when credible gang death threats were received by both the officer and his child. City of Pittsburgh v. Logan, 810 A.2d 1185 (Pa. 2002). [N/R]
     Bar owner held liable for $4.5 million to injuries off-duty officer suffered from attack by patron when he went there to celebrate his graduation from SWAT team training. Zelaya v. U.S. Euro Micro Ventures, No. 00-32681(6), Miami-Dade County, Fla., Circuit Court, Feb. 26, 2002, reported in The National Law Journal, p. B4, May 13, 2002.  [2002 LR Aug]
     Transit authority could be sued under Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. Sec. 51, for injuries police officer suffered while providing security for parking lot authority maintained at railroad station. Greene v. Long Island Railroad Co., No. 00-9292, 280 F.3d 224 (2nd Cir. 2002). [N/R]
     347:171 California officer burned by flung hot fryer oil while breaking up a fight in restaurant kitchen is awarded $1.2 million in damages against restaurant owners. Yamaguchi v. Chaiyut Harnsmut, No. 305-476, (San Francisco County, Calif., Super. Court), reported in The National Law Journal, p. B4 (July 30, 2001).
     335:172 Motorist's meritless "police brutality" lawsuit against officer, in which he tried to bribe witnesses to give fabricated testimony, was deliberately intended to injure the officer; debt arising from officer's lawsuit against the motorist for "vexatious litigation" therefore could not be discharged in bankruptcy. Amaranto, Debtor, In Re, 252 B.R. 595, 2000 Bankr. LEXIS 1029, 2000 WL 1285632, Bankr. L. Rep. (CCH) P78,268 (Bankr. D. Conn. 2000).
     333:133 Georgia notice of claims statute only applied to claims that married couple arrested after school board meeting had against the city, not to claims against individual city employees; couple's counter-claim for alleged abusive litigation was improper in officer's lawsuit against them for injuries, since it could only be brought after the termination of the first lawsuit. Jacobs v. Littleton, Nos. A99A2014-A99A2016, 525 S.E.2d 433 (Ga. App. 1999).
     279:44 No liability for sheriff's department for injuries auxiliary deputy suffered when pushed by arrestee who another deputy in command had not yet handcuffed. Johnson v. Bennett, 658 So.2d 712 (La App. 1995).
     278:27 NY high court explains scope of "firefighter rule" bar to recovery for negligence in suits brought by police or firefighters in that state; no damages may be recovered when performance of official duties increased the risk of injury. Zanghi v. Niagara Frontier Transportation Commission, 85 NY2d 423, 626 N.Y.S.2d 23 (1995).
     281:78 Police officer could not sue bar owner for allegedly continuing to serve liquor to intoxicated man who ran at officer with machete raised when officer responded to call stating that there was a man at the bar "playing with a knife"; suit was barred, under Rhode Island law, by "police officers' rule" defense Smith v. Tully, 665 A.2d 1333 (RI 1995).
     284:123 Estate of sheriff's deputy shot and killed by suspect that deputy was attempting to arrest could sue city and other officer based on claim that other officer's alleged violations of state law and police department rules and regulations created additional risks to those ordinarily faced by an officer arresting a suspect; these claims, unlike negligence claims, were not barred by fireman's rule under NY law Carlson v. City of Tonawanda, 635 N.Y.S.2d 365 (A.D. 1995).
     287:172 Officer was improperly barred from testifying as expert witness as to whether sheriff's alleged failure to train deputies on proper retrieval and use of shotguns stored in locked trunks of cruisers created unsafe working conditions; summary judgment for defendant sheriff and county overturned in suit brought by deputy shot by assailant while attempting to retrieve shotgun from trunk Gentry v. Mangum, 466 S.E.2d 171 (W.Va. 1995). [Cross-References: Procedural: Evidence]
     283:107 Police officer, hired by bank to escort tellers with cash to drive-through booths, shot and killed during robbery; surviving family receives $15 million settlement in inadequate security lawsuit Bauer v. Kislak Nat'l Bank, Fla, Dade County Cir. Ct, No 93-18655 CA 01, July 12, 1995, reported in 39 ATLA L Reptr 30 (Feb 1996).
     285:141 Police officer injured in fall on stairs while responding to burglar alarm at high school was properly awarded $20,000 in damages by jury; North Carolina Supreme Court rules that premises owners owe police officers a duty of reasonable care comparable to that extended to those on the premises at their invitation Newton v. New Hanover County Board of Education, 467 S.E.2d 58 (N.C. 1996).
     278:28 Eight million dollar settlement in suit against helicopter engine company by families of two officers who died in helicopter crash when engine failed Champe v. Turbomeca Engine Corp, 348142300-92, Dist. Ct., Tarrant Co, Texas, June 28, 1995, reported in The Natl. Law Jour. p. A11 (Aug 14, 1995).
     286:155 Nightclub which allegedly allowed minors to become intoxicated on its premises was not liable for injuries to police officer called to premises to quell disturbance who was struck by a truck allegedly driven by intoxicated minors Mann v. Orrell, 912 S.W.2d 1 (Ark 1995). [Cross-reference: Police Plaintiff: Dram Shop]
     281:77 Jury awards $150,000 in damages to undercover police officers threatened, called racial epithets and allegedly assaulted by apartment building security guards as they sat in vehicle outside apartment building to investigate complaints that guards were falsely arresting and detaining innocent people and planting evidence on them Griffin v. Security Consultants Armed Express, Inc, No. SVC258107, San Bernardino Superior Court, Aug 23, 1995, reported in Vol. 108 Los Ang. Daily Jour. (Verd. & Stl.), pgs 4-5, Sept 22, 1995
     267:45 Police officer could sue attorney for defamation for recounting to the press details of complaint filed against officer alleging excessive use of force; attorney was not entitled to absolute privilege for restating information contained in public record complaint document, but only to qualified privilege which is lost if statements are made with malice Cappello v. Scott, 274 NJ Super 282, 644 A.2d 102 (1994).
     270:93 Newspaper and its reporters could not be held liable to officer for libel for publishing a report that he had been "suspended" pending the investigation of a shooting incident; statement was "substantially true," even if "administrative leave" was the precise designation of the action taken Miller v. Journal-News, 620 N.Y.S.2d 500 (A.D. 1995).
     274:156 NY police officer, allegedly injured while pursuing arrestee who was attempting to escape custody, may sue arrestee for damages under state law Baiamonte v. Buongiovanni, 615 N.Y.S.2d 415 (A.D. 1994).
     271:106 Nevada Supreme Court rules that fireman's rule did not bar officer, bit by dog while investigating burglar alarm, from suing homeowner for negligence in failing to warn of presence of dog; alarm company, however, had no duty under Nevada law, to warn officer Wiley v. Redd, 885 P.2d 592 (Nev 1994).
     274:156 Undercover vice officers could not recover damages against television station which aired episode with their faces "unblurred," despite agreement with show's producers that their faces would be disguised Does I-VI v. KTNY-Channel 13, 863 F.Supp. 1259 (D.Nev 1994).
     265:13 Officer standing by his patrol car struck by vehicle driven by intoxicated motorist which then sped off awarded $695 million in damages against motorist Sullins v. White, 32921 (Dist. Ct., Hardin Co, Tex.), reported in The Natl. Law Jour., p. A15 (Aug 29, 1994).
     NY state statute allowing officers to sue the state for injuries in the line of duty caused by a person's violation of a statute or ordinance applied retroactively and was not unconstitutional; officers injured while attempting to apprehend an escaped mental patient to recover damages against state Santangelo v. State, 601 N.Y.S.2d 305 (A.D. 1993).
     NY police officer could recover negligence damages against motorist whose vehicle injured him if motorist violated any traffic law in doing so Malsky v. Towner, 601 N.Y.S.2d 310 (A.D. 1993).
     Police officer who was injured when he came to the assistance of hospital security guard being attacked by mental patient could not sue security company for his injuries; fireman's rule barred officer's suit Seibert Security Services, Inc v. Superior Court, 22 Cal.Rptr.2d 514 (A.D. 1993).
     Convenience store had a duty to call police for assistance when off-duty plainclothes officer was being assaulted in its parking lot by three teenagers; Maryland high court rules that officer's suit against store was not barred by "fireman's rule" Southland Corp v. Griffith, 332 Md 704, 633 A.2d 84 (1993). Officer, cleared of allegations of sexual misconduct after nine month internal investigation, receives $21,000 settlement in suit against complainant for defamation Severance v. Crossman, Wash, King County Super Ct, No 92-2-19712-0, Dec 1, 1993, reported 37 ATLA L. Rep.226 (Aug 1994).
     Police officer injured while using a battering ram to break down an apartment door to arrest a suspected drug dealer could not sue building owner for damages for failure to evict drug dealer in the absence of proof of owner's knowledge of drug activities there Blickley v. Sena, 603 N.Y.S.2d 309 (A.D. 1993).
     Police officer injured in New York while pursuing suspect into construction site could sue premises owners for damages based on alleged violations of specific state statutes concerning the condition of the premises Antico v. Richmond Housing Associates, 602 N.Y.S.2d 179 (A.D. 1993).
     NY courts hold that "fireman's rule" prevents injured officers from suing for damages for accidental shooting by fellow officers, shooting by off-duty correctional officer that occurred during street brawl, and being hit by passing vehicle at accident site; court upholds, however, officer's ability to sue suspect who allegedly assaulted her while she was trying to impound his vehicle for traffic violations Damiani v. City of Buffalo, 603 N.Y.S.2d 1006 (A.D. 1993); Clark v. DeJohn, 603 N.Y.S.2d 1008 (A.D. 1993); Phalen v. Kane, 600 N.Y.S.2d 988 (A.D. 1993); Morrisey v. County of Erie, 603 N.Y.S.2d 1009 (A.D. 1993).
     NY high court rules that "fireman's rule" bars officer's lawsuit against city for injuries suffered while riding in a police vehicle responding to an emergency call, which collided with another vehicle, allegedly because of fellow officer's "improper driving" Cooper v. City of New York, 81 NY 2d 584, 601 N.Y.S.2d 432, 619 N.E.2d 369 (1993).
     Missouri court holds that "fireman's rule" applies to injury claims by police officers in that state, barring negligence claims against parents of minors who shot at officers (and against minors), but did not bar a claim for assault and battery Lambert v. Schaefer, 839 SW.2d 27 (Mo App. 1992).
     City, which self-insured its police vehicles, was not required, under Indiana law, to provide uninsured motorist coverage for police officer injured in collision with motorist whose insurance company was insolvent City of Gary v. Allstate Ins co, 598 N.E.2d 625 (Ind App. 1993).
     Officers injured by assault while removing intoxicated patrons from hotel awarded $6,500 against patrons; suit was not barred by "professional rescuer" doctrine and also would not have been barred by the "fireman's rule" Ballou v. Nelson, 834 P.2d 97 (Wash App. 1992).
     "Fireman's rule" did not, in Maryland, bar lawsuit by police officer against convenience store clerk for refusal to summon assistance when officer was assaulted while trying to restore order on store premises Griffith v. Southland Corporation, 94 Md App. 242, 617 A.2d 598 (1992).
     New York appeals court overturns $819,766 award to officer injured in police vehicle driven by fellow officer; officer's claim for injuries was barred by "fireman's rule" prohibiting recovery for injuries caused by negligence during the performance of routine police duties Cooper v. City of New York, 582 N.Y.S.2d 394 (A.D. 1992).
     Settlement of lawsuit against officer was not a termination "favorable" to him for purposes of his malicious prosecution lawsuit against the plaintiff Villa v. Cole, 6 Cal.Rptr. 644 (Cal App. 1992).
     "Fireman's rule" did not bar officer's negligent action against building owner for injuries suffered when building landing collapsed while officer was in the building in pursuit of a suspect Ramos v. Doesn't Matter Realty Corp, 579 N.Y.S.2d 541 (Sup 1991).
     Police officer engaged in high-speed chase of speeding motorist had not assumed the risk of injury created by another motorist's alleged negligence in making a left turn into the path of the pursued vehicle; suit for injuries resulting when officer veered to avoid collision was not barred Brown v. Harrington, 575 N.Y.S.2d 622 (A.D. 1990).
     Pizza parlor was not liable to off-duty police officer attacked by several alleged patrons when he attempted to stop one of them from urinating in public Campbell v. Lorenzo's Pizza Parlor, Inc, 567 N.Y.S.2d 832 (A.D. 1991).
     Fireman's rule, barring suits caused by negligence to officers on premises pursuant to their official duties, did not bar a lawsuit by an officer claiming intentional abuse aimed at him Wilde v. Gilland, 473 N.W.2d 718 (Mich App. 1991).
     Police officer injured in head-on collision with pursued car could not sue state police of negligence in beginning and continuing chase; "fireman's rule" barred his suit for foreseeable injuries stemming from the performance of his duties McGhee v. State Police Depaart, 459 N.W.2d 67 (Mich App. 1990).
     Deputy injured while breaking up fight at bar could sue bar owners for damages on the basis of chronic violence at bar, its policy of ignoring that violence, and its repeated request for police to serve as its security force; "firefighter's rule" did not bar claim Adelsperger v. Riverboat, Inc, 573 So.2d 80 (Fla App. 1990).
     Fireman's rule did not bar NH police officer's lawsuit against minor who shot him, and minor's parents Migdal v. Stamp, 564 A.2d 826 (NH 1989).

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