AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Procedural: Failure to Prosecute
A woman sued the
California Highway Patrol and a number of its officers for shooting and
killing her husband, claiming excessive use of force. The lawsuit was dismissed
with prejudice for failure to prosecute because her attorney failed to
meet court deadlines or attend hearings. A federal appeals court rule that
the lawyer's "gross negligence" was an "extraordinary circumstance"
not attributable to the plaintiff, so that she should be granted relief
from the dismissal and have her claim reinstated. When she learned of her
attorney's conduct, she hired a new attorney and filed a motion to set
aside the dismissal. The court found that the attorney had virtually abandoned
his client and also attempted to mislead her about the status of the case.
Lal v. State of Calif., #08-15645, 610 F.3d 518 (9th Cir. 2010).
Dismissal of an arrestee's federal civil rights lawsuit alleging excessive force in his shooting by an officer was not appropriate for failure to prosecute, despite the inactivity of the case during two years since the plaintiff's release from prison. Plaintiff had not failed to comply with any court orders or to appear for any scheduled depositions and the plaintiff was unable to leave New York to litigate his claim in Pennsylvania due to the conditions of his parole. No prejudice would be suffered by the defendants by proceeding with the case since statements were taken on the day of the shooting and the depositions of both the plaintiff and the defendant officer were already taken. Baxter v. Lancaster County, 214 F. Supp. 2d 482 (E.D. Pa. 2002).[N/R]
Trial court abused its discretion in dismissing a motorist's lawsuit against the city and one of its police officers following three years of inactivity in the case when the city itself was partially responsible for the delay, having asked for a continuance after a new lawyer was assigned to the case, and city would not be prejudiced by officer's alleged non-availability when his deposition testimony and trial testimony from an earlier trial with a hung jury was available. Claims in the case involved the officer's alleged wrongful refusal to provide motorist with the identity of another driver who turned in front of him, forcing his vehicle into a ditch. Tims v. City of Jackson, No. 2000-CA-01820-COA, 823 So. 2d 602 (Miss. App. 2002).[N/R]
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