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


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Bankruptcy: Defenses & Procedural Issues

     A plaintiff who was in the midst of a Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceeding filed a federal civil rights suit against police officers seeking damages for illegal search. He failed to amend his bankruptcy filing to include the pending lawsuit claim as an asset. The officers were accordingly entitled to the dismissal of the lawsuit, since he had adopted a position in the bankruptcy court inconsistent with his claim that he was entitled to damages for unlawful search by failing to list it as one of his assets. Judicial estoppel therefore barred his claim. Guay v. Burak, #102513, 677 F.3d 10 (1st Cir. 2012).
     A motorist's lawsuit claiming that a city police officer used excessive force against him during a traffic stop should be stayed under 11 U.S.C. Sec. 362, a magistrate judge recommended, because the city employing the officers filed for bankruptcy protection, so that any judgment for damages could impact the bankruptcy estate's property. Additionally, the magistrate recommended denial of the officers' motion for summary judgment as there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether an officer used excessive force against the motorist, handcuffing him, dislocating his finger, kicking him, knocking him to the ground, jumping on him, and hitting him, after which other officers allegedly joined in the beating, actions that the officers disputed. Garfield v. Kenney, No.CIV S-07-0100, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 71791 (E.D. Cal.).
     A plaintiff arrestee who filed a false arrest lawsuit, but failed to notify a bankruptcy court that he had done so despite pending bankruptcy proceedings, was barred from asserting his claims arising out of the arrest. The arrestee had taken inconsistent legal positions by trying to pursue his federal civil rights claims in court after having denied in his bankruptcy case, that he had any assets. Davis v. Village of Caseyville, No. 05-CV-0455, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 11661 (S.D. Ill.).
     A couple who asserted, in filing a bankruptcy proceeding, that they had no assets and no "contingent and unliquidated claims" of any nature, could not, after this assertion was accepted as true by the bankruptcy court, subsequently file a federal civil rights lawsuit less than a month later, asserting claims against a town and its police chief for an alleged pattern of "egregious conduct," including harassment, intimidation and threats towards the couple and their family, and an incident in which the wife was allegedly sexually assaulted by another officer employed by the town. Their assertion in the bankruptcy proceeding that they had no unsatisfied claims was inconsistent with their assertion of federal civil rights claims for conduct that pre-dated the bankruptcy. Plaintiffs were therefore "judicially estopped" from their assertion of a contrary position--that they had unsatisfied federal civil rights claims--in a subsequent proceeding. Howell v. Town of Leyden, No. CIV.A 02-30135-MAP, 335 F. Supp. 2d 248 (D. Mass. 2004).[N/R]
     A plaintiff acting as her own attorney claimed that police officers had improperly beaten her without justification, but a bankruptcy trustee was substituted for her as the real party in interest after she filed bankruptcy. She subsequently failed to file answers to requests for admissions in the case, because she believed that the trustee had submitted the requested information, but the trustee had not. Summary judgment was later granted because the unanswered requests were deemed admissions. The Supreme Court of Alaska held that the plaintiff, now substituted back in following the withdrawal of the trustee, should be allowed to withdraw the admissions, reinstating the case. Genaro v. Municipality of Anchorage, No. S-10681, 76 P.3d 844 (Alaska 2003). [N/R]
    Sheriff could not be held liable for "acquiescing" in deputy's alleged "improper conduct" with female passenger in his vehicle when he never learned of it until after a lawsuit was filed; deputy who filed bankruptcy could not be sued for this conduct when plaintiff took no steps in court to object to the discharge of the claim or to seek an exception to the discharge. Moor v. Madison County Sheriff's Department, No. 00-6004, 30 Federal Appendix 417 (6th Cir. 2002). [2002 LR Jun]


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