AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Police Plaintiff: Firearms Related
In a prior decision,
Curley v. Klem, #01-1093, 298 F.3d 271 (3rd Cir. 2002), a federal appeals
court held that a state trooper was not entitled to qualified immunity
for his shooting of a Port Authority police officer in full uniform who
he stated he believed to be an armed murder suspect he had been pursuing.
The injured officer claimed that trooper unreasonably failed to look into
vehicle where the sought suspect had just committed suicide and unreasonably
shot him only because, like the suspect, he was a "black man with
a gun." Subsequently, on remand, a jury found that the shooting officer's
failure to look into the window of the vehicle was unreasonable but that
the officer's action in shooting the injured officer was not unreasonable.
On appeal, the court found that the jury's verdict, in finding that the
officer acted reasonably under the totality of the circumstances meant
that no constitutional violation occurred. Curley v. Klem, No. 05-4701,
2007 U.S. App. Lexis 20213 (3rd Cir.).
If the facts were as stated by an undercover officer, shot by a fellow officer after reporting that he had already been shot in the area by a perpetrator, the actions of the shooting officer were not objectively reasonable. A reasonable officer, arriving on the scene after there was a report of an officer shot, would have recognized that the undercover officer did not pose an immediate threat to anyone. While he had a pistol, he dropped it on the ground, and was not pointing it at the officers or reaching for it. He was also not actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade the officers by flight, but was kneeling in the street under a streetlight by himself, and waving his arms above his head trying to attract attention. Further, the shooting officer failed to attempt to give the undercover officer any commands or warnings before firing at him, and the undercover officer did not match the description of the suspect sought, who had shot him. Ngo v. Storlie, No. 06-2771, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 17798 (8th Cir.).
Shooting of deputy sheriff in courtroom by a criminal defendant who had previously indicated that he might engage in violence if convicted did not provide a basis for liability by the county for allegedly failing to take adequate security steps to prevent the shooting. Even if it could be said that the county disregarded a known risk of harm to the deputy, as an employee, that would be insufficient to establish a violation of his due process rights. The deputy was paid to help guard the courtroom, and he was not placed in danger, rather, he "volunteered" to be exposed to possible danger by agreeing to do his job. Witkowski v. Milwaukee County, No. 06-3627, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 5761 (7th Cir.).
A dispatcher did not engage in conduct violating an officer's due process rights in communicating to him the nature of a 911 call which he responded to, getting fatally shot when he arrived. The dispatcher, while knowing that there was a possibility that someone had been injured at the scene of the call, did not know for a fact that there had actually been an injury, much less the source of that injury, and she did not know that injuries had been caused by violent criminals, rather than by accident, at the time she dispatched the officer. Aselton v. Town of East Hartford, SC17383, 277 Conn. 120, 890 A.2d 1250 (Conn. 2006). [N/R]
Police officer who suffered eye injury during "live fire" training exercise could not recover damages on the basis of alleged violation of his civil rights because of the police chief's decision to order officers to wear their riot helmets during the exercise, instead of specially designed face masks. Moore v. Guthrie, No. 04-1435, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 4171 (10th Cir.). [2006 LR Apr]
Police officer's claim for injuries he suffered while exiting from a commercial truck he helped move after an accident in which it became wedged under a viaduct was not barred by the firefighters' rule under Illinois law. The police officer, in assisting in moving the truck, could claim to have acted in his capacity as an ordinary citizen with experience with tractor-trailers and not within the scope of his official duties, so that his injuries arguably did not arise from negligence causing an emergency requiring his presence as an officer. Knight v. Schneider Nat. Carriers, Inc., 03-C-9019, 350 F. Supp. 2d 775 (N.D. Ill. 2004). [N/R]
Employer whose drug intoxicated employee shot a police officer responding to a domestic dispute he was having with his wife was properly held liable for $800,000 in compensatory and $500,000 in punitive damages. Evidence showed that supervisors were aware of, and even encouraged, work crew to use drugs to stay "alert" and awake while repairing railroad tracks. Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc. v. Ianni, No. 08-02-00049-CV, 141 S.W.3d 722 (Tex. App. 2004). [2004 LR Dec]
Arresting officer's statement to booking officer that the arrestee's handgun had been confiscated at the arrest site, which turned out to be incorrect, was not a due process violation making him liable to the estate of a fellow officer shot and killed by the arrestee during the booking process with the handgun he had managed to retain during his arrest. Wouters v. City of Warren, No. 01-2642, 73 Fed. Appx. 87 (6th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
Family of police detectives shot and killed by prisoner who obtained a weapon by stealing it from a police locker could not recover damages for wrongful death from the city on either the basis that the building was not adequately maintained or that the city provided the officers with an unsafe place of employment. The deaths were not caused by any physical condition in the locker room or defect in the facility itself, but rather by the practice of holding prisoners near the lockers where firearms were kept. Williams v. City of New York, 758 N.Y.S.2d 349 (A.D. 2nd Dept. 2003). [N/R]
Parents who allegedly allowed their fugitive son access to their home and helped him avoid arrest owed a duty to a police officer their son subsequently shot and killed while trying to avoid apprehension to safely store and secure their handgun, which was used in the killing. Estate of Heck ex Rel. Heck v. Stoffer, 786 N.E.2d 265 (Indiana 203). [2003 LR Jul]
City was not liable for injury suffered by officer who was accidentally shot by fellow officer during drug raid. Failure of city to use a specially trained unit to conduct raids on suspected drug dealers' residences did not constitute "deliberately indifferent" behavior that shocked the conscience and violated the injured officer's due process rights. Shooting officer's actions resulted from his own negligence, not from the city's failure to train him adequately. Pahler v. City of Wilkes-Barre, #01-2275, 31 Fed. Appx. 69 (3rd Cir. 2002). [2002 LR Oct]
Operation of a police training school by a village was a "proprietary function" imposing the same duty of care and same liability as a private individual or institution would have had while engaging in the same activity. Municipality, school, and school personnel, including director and commanding officer were not entitled to governmental immunity under New York law from liability for trainee's injuries during firearms training exercise. Lemery v. Village of Cambridge, 736 N.Y.S.2d 503 (A.D. 2002). [2002 LR May]
Police officer shot in the chest in a parking lot is awarded $1.3 million against employer of his attacker; officer's lawsuit claimed that employer knew about, but ignored drug use by its traveling work crews, including the attacker. Ianni v. Loram Maintenance of Way Inc., No. 96-151 (El Paso Co., Texas, 120th Dist. Ct.), reported in The National Law Journal, p. B3 (Feb. 11, 2002). [2002 LR May]
Jury awards $35.5 million against town for failure to destroy assault rifle turned into department; weapon was instead issued to officer who took it home and kept it in gun cabinet which his son had access to; son used weapon to kill two Border patrol agents and injury a deputy sheriff. Salinas v. City of Harlingen, No. B-98-162, U.S. District Court, (S.D. Texas), reported in The National Law Journal, p. A6 (March 4, 2002). [2002 LR Apr]
340:56 Jury award of $17.9 million to family of New York officer accidentally shot by his partner set aside; New York's highest court holds that the requirements of a police department internal manual cannot be the basis for civil liability by the city since it does not establish clear legal duties and is not part of a "duly-enacted body of law or regulation." Galapo v. City of New York, No. 138, 744 N.E.2d 685 (N.Y. 2000). 303:39 Family of police officer accidentally shot and killed by his partner while they made drug arrests awarded $17.95 million in damages by New York jury. Galapo v. Martin, trial court, Brooklyn N.Y., reported in The New York Times, p. A19, November 18, 1997.
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