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


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Public Protection: Rescue Situations

     Persons injured during a train derailment and volunteer firefighters filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming that a county and its sheriff unlawfully prevented the firefighters from engaging in rescue efforts that might have limited those injuries. A federal appeals court ruled that the sheriff's actions in barring the entry of the volunteer firefighters into the areas of the derailment did not violate the injured persons' due process rights since the sheriff did make provisions for eventual rescue of them by professional firefighters. The volunteer firefighters had no constitutionally protected interest in their volunteer positions. Excluding volunteers from a dangerous emergency situation, while allowing professional firefighters to enter was a "conceivably legitimate" governmental goal. Hale v. Bexar County, #08-50820, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 16498 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
     Paralegals and police officers were not entitled to immunity under California law in lawsuit contending that they took actions which increased the risk that a man would die from him bullet wounds when they allegedly prevented other persons from assisting him or taking him to the hospital. The plaintiff decedent's estate alleged that the defendants acted in bad faith or with gross negligence. Mitchell v. County of San Diego, No. 05-56657, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 16155 (9th Cir.).
     County law enforcement officers, under the facts alleged by a mother in a lawsuit over the death of her son, could be found to have taken actions which increased the risk that he would die from his bullet wounds, to the extent that they allegedly prevented other people from either transporting him to a hospital or assisting him. The facts alleged were also sufficient to establish a claim for negligent provision of medical services by county paramedics. Additionally, the appeals court found that the officers and paramedics were not entitled to immunity under California state law for their actions, when the plaintiff claimed that they acted in bad faith or with gross negligence. Mitchell v. County of San Diego, No. 05-56657, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 16155 (9th Cir.).
     Police officers who allegedly failed to summon ambulance for an hour and a half after responding to 911 call reporting man suffering from gunshot wounds were not entitled to summary judgment in wrongful death lawsuit. Decedent's estate claimed that officers had also told a neighbor who wanted to assist the injured man to go away. While officers may not have had a duty to respond to the call, once they voluntarily undertook to take charge of the scene, they had a duty not to harm the injured man. Torres v. City of Chicago, No. 1-03-0357, 2004 Ill. App. Lexis 1115 (1st Dist.). [2004 LR Nov]
     Federal appeals court overturns jury verdict in favor of law enforcement defendants who allegedly interfered with the efforts of private persons to rescue a man who jumped into a river, and failed to offer a reasonable alternative rescue service. Court holds that "cumulative-error" doctrine should apply to civil cases, and that a new trial was required because of a number of evidentiary errors made by the trial court. Beck v. Haik, No. 01-2723 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 15590 (6th Cir.). [2004 LR Sep]
        Even if police officers acted willfully and wantonly in failing to rescue victims of a residential fire, they were protected against liability under Illinois law based on governmental immunity for discretionary actions under 745 ILCS 10/2-201. The officers, the court finds, had a policy decision to make in balancing their possible chance of success in rescuing the fire victims against the risk to their own safety. Fender v. Town of Cicero, 807 N.E.2d 606 (Ill. App. 1st Dist. 2004). [N/R]

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