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


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Firearms Related: Accidental Use

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Use of Deadly Force-- Part Three. Supervisory Liability and Negligent/Accidental Acts, 2008 (1) AELE Mo. L.J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Interagency Memorandums of Agreement for Officer-Involved Shooting Investigations, 2011 (1) AELE Mo. L. J. 501.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Weapon Confusion and Civil Liability, 2012 (6) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Teaching 4th Amendment Based Use-of-Force, 2012 (7) AELE Mo. L. J. 501.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Mandatory Nationwide Use of Force Reporting by Police and Correctional Agencies and Why This is an Important Issue, 2015 (6) AELE Mo. L. J. 501.

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Federal Civil Rights Liability for Accidental Shootings by Officers, 2016 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

     An elderly African-American man, described as innocent, was shot and killed by an officer during a SWAT team raid executing a search warrant for drugs and paraphernalia on his home, where two drug dealers were thought to reside. A lawsuit argued that the officer violated the decedent's rights by pointing a loaded semi-automatic rifle at his head with the safety off and a finger on the trigger, even though he was compliant and posed no known threat. Rejecting the officer's argument that he was entitled to qualified immunity because the shooting was accidental and not a violation of clearly established law, the federal appeals court found that the law was sufficiently established to put the officer on notice that his actions were not constitutionally permissible. Stamps v. Town of Framingham, #15-1141 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 2026 (1st Cir.).
     A diabetic police officer might be entitled to qualified immunity for firing every round in his weapon and hitting a trucker who had committed no offense. He had experienced a hypoglycemic reaction because of his diabetes, and consumed a donut and soda to attempt to counteract it. The officer argued that, because of problems with his blood sugar, he did not intend to fire his weapon at all, much less shoot the trucker. The trial court acted erroneously in rejecting the officer's defense without taking into account the officer's subjective intent. Gardner v. Board of Police Commissioners, for Kansas City, Missouri, #10-2179 , 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 11652 (8th Cir.).
     When the evidence showed that a DUI arrestee was kicking, spitting, and refusing to cooperate with officers just before he was accidentally shot by an officer in the left buttock, the officer was entitled to use reasonable force. The officer intended to draw and fire his Taser, but mistakenly pulled out and fired his gun instead. The court found that the plaintiff's claim that the officer was not entitled to use any force at all was barred. Additionally, the fact that the arrestee was convicted for resisting the officers was inconsistent with his claim that he had offered no resistance to them, so that they were unjustified in any use of force. The plaintiff could, however, pursue his claims arising out of the accidental use of deadly force. Yount v. City of Sacramento, No. S139762, 2008 Cal. Lexis 5426.
     Officer who intended to use a Taser holstered near her gun against a suspect, but instead drew and fired her gun, killing the suspect was not entitled to summary judgment. At the time, the suspect was seized for purposes of the Fourth Amendment and was handcuffed and in the back of a patrol car.  Torres v. City of Madera, No. 05-16762, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 9648 (9th Cir.).
     Arrestee's guilty plea to criminal charges of obstructing an officer did not bar him from pursuing his excessive force lawsuit against the officer who shot him while attempting to subdue him during his arrest. The court found that the arrestee "delayed or obstructed" officers several times in "many different ways" over a period of time, and the record of the plaintiff's criminal conviction did not indicate which of these acts was the basis for his guilty plea, and whether it was that action which the officer was responding to when he mistakenly shot the arrestee with his firearm, intending to draw and fire his Taser gun. Yount v. City of Sacramento, No. C046869, No. C046869, 35 Cal. Rptr. 3d 563 (Cal. App. 3rd Dist. 2005). [N/R]
     Arrestee's conviction for obstructing an officer did not bar his federal civil rights lawsuit for excessive force by an officer who shot him in the buttocks with his handgun while intending to draw and fire his Taser gun instead. Yount v. City of Sacramento, No. C046869, 2005 Cal. App. Lexis 1732 ( Cal. App.). [2005 LR Dec]
     Federal court grants summary judgment to Taser International in lawsuit filed by city attempting to obtain indemnification on a products liability basis for the death of an arrestee killed by a police officer who mistakenly shot him with her Glock semiautomatic weapon when she intended to use her Taser. Court rejects argument that Taser was liable because of a "design defect" making the Taser look too much like a gun, or on the basis of several other theories. Torres v. City of Madera, #02-6385, U.S. District Court, E.D. Cal. (July 11, 2005). [2005 LR Sep]
     City was not liable for officer's accidental shooting of motorist when his weapon discharged after he fell on the ice while running towards the motorist's vehicle following a pursuit. Officer's actions did not constitute a violation of the motorist's constitutional rights and there was no showing that a city policy or custom of displaying deadly force to make felony traffic stops existed. McCoy v. City of Monticello, No. 03-3668, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 11343 (8th Cir.). [2005 LR Aug]
     Officer's action of drawing his gun when approaching a suspect's vehicle at the conclusion of a one-mile pursuit was not unreasonable under the circumstances. Officer was entitled to qualified immunity for the shooting of the motorist when he accidentally slipped and his gun discharged.  McCoy v. City of Monticello, No. 02-2941, 342 F.3d 842 (8th Cir. 2003). [2004 LR Jan]
     Trial court erred in ruling that officer's accidental shooting of auto passenger was reasonable and that he was entitled to qualified immunity. There was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the officer's manner of approaching the car with his gun drawn and pulling the passenger out of the vehicle was reasonable, based on expert testimony and the claim that the passenger put his hands up and was cooperating. Heyward v. Christmas, #3562, 573 S.E.2d 845 (S.C. App. 2002). [N/R]
     Officer acted in good faith in keeping his gun drawn while assisting another officer handcuff an arrestee following a high-speed chase, entitling him to official immunity under Texas state law for injuries arrestee suffered when the gun accidentally discharged. Telthorster v. Tennell, #01-0074, 92 S.W.3d 457 (Tex. 2002). [2003 LR Apr]
           346:150 Officer was entitled to "pursuit immunity" under New Jersey statute from liability for accidental discharge of his weapon, which dislodged from his holster, while he was in foot pursuit of a drug suspect; neither officer or department was liable to bystander injured by shot. Alston v. City of Camden, 168 N.J. 170, 773 A.2d 693 (N.J. 2001).
     344:124 Deputy who shot a hostage during a shootout with store armed robbers did not violate hostage's Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth Amendment rights. Lee v. Williams, 138 F. Supp. 2d 748 (E.D. Va. 2001).
     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).
     328:57 Officer was not entitled to qualified immunity for shooting suspect in the neck when there was a factual dispute as to whether the shot was fired accidentally or intentionally. Anthony v. Vaccaro, 43 F.Supp. 2d 843 (N.D. Ohio 1999).
     313:10 Deputy not liable for shooting of bystander who he asked to assist him in subduing suspect struggling for his gun; deputy did not intend to harm bystander and he was facing emergency situation requiring instant decision. Radecki v. Barela, #96-2997, 146 F.3d 1227 (10th Cir. 1998).
     313:9 Officers not liable for accidental shooting of hostage while attempting to shoot hostage-taker; shooting of hostage was not a Fourth Amendment "seizure," since it was not intended; officers' attempt to rescue hostages was beyond "acceptable"--it was admirable, and could not be called "shocking to the conscience" as required for due process claim. Medeiros v. O'Connell, #97-7355, 150 F.3d 164 (2nd Cir. 1998).
     311:167 Officer did not use excessive force when his shotgun discharged, injuring hand of man who was actively resisting officer's execution of search warrant by trying to grab shotgun and attempting to strike officer with a steam iron; shooting under these circumstances would be justified even if intentional. Garcia v. Grisanti, 998 F.Supp. 270 (W.D.N.Y. 1998).
     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.
     294:89 Canadian motorist accidentally shot in the head by constable during traffic stop receives $4 million settlement; bullet caused brain damage and other injuries Ianson v. Ontario, reported in The Montreal Gazette, Feb 9, 1997
     293:72 Accidental shooting of arrestee did not constitute a "seizure" for purposes of the Fourth Amendment; officer's approach within arm's length of the arrestee in order to subdue him was reasonable in light of arrestee's refusal to obey lawful orders and his alleged prior statements that he would kill police rather than submit to arrest Clark v. Buchko, 936 F.Supp. 212 (D.N.J. 1996).
     Louisiana Supreme Court overturns $785,000 award against sheriff for accidental discharge of gun of off-duty employee cook, commissioned as a deputy sheriff only to obtain state supplemental pay Roberts v. Benoit, 603 So.2d 150 (La 1992).
     Officer's accidental shooting of arrestee did not constitute a "seizure" for Fourth Amendment purposes which could serve as the basis for an excessive force claim Troublefield v. City of Harrisburg, Bureau of Police, 789 F.Supp. 160 (M.D. Pa 1992).
     City liable for $525,000 in shooting death of 10-year-old boy by his 10-year-old playmate who pointed his police cadet mother's gun at the youth Veres v. Rodriguez, No 87 L 14755, Circuit Ct Cook Cnty, Ill, reported in Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, p. 3 (Nov 20, 1992).
     Accidental shooting of suspected shoplifter was not a Fourth Amendment "seizure"; no recovery for plaintiff in civil rights suit over injuries Glasco v. Ballard, 768 F supp 176 (E.D. Va 1991).
     Man accidentally shot in the head by off-duty sheriff's deputy handling his gun awarded $785,000; sheriff was negligent in hiring and training deputy, who worked as a kitchen cook in the sheriff's office Roberts v. Benoit, 574 So.2d 1256 (La App. 1991).
     Federal appeals court overturns $105,000 award of damages to hostage inadvertently shot by officer; officer shot at car containing both armed robber and hostage for the purpose of stopping robber's flight Landol-Rivera v. Cruz Cosme, 906 F.2d 791 (1st Cir. 1990).
     Neither officers or city were liable for accidental shooting of unarmed auto theft suspect; mere drawing of revolver was not unreasonable Pleasant v. Zamieski, 895 F.2d 272 (6th Cir. 1990).
     Police officer shot by other officers during arrest failed to state claim for inadequate training; finding that two officers both used excessive force against each other should not bar either's recovery Graham v. Davis, 880 F.2d 1414 (DC Cir. 1989).
     No civil rights liability for shooting of unarmed robbery suspect which was, at most, negligent Carlisle v. City of Minneapolis, 437 N.W.2d 712 (Minn. App. 1989).
     Police Chief and city not liable for accidental shooting of arrestee by officer in absence of allegation of policy of inadequate training Dell Fargo v. City of San Juan Bautista, 857 F.2d 638 (9th Cir. 1988).
     State not liable for failure to investigate background of handgun purchaser who fatally shot deputy Gray v. San Francisco Gun Exchange, 254 Cal.Rptr. 581 (Cal App. 1989).
     Use of deadly force to prevent escape of robbery suspect was justified even if robber was unarmed when officers had probable cause to believe shots had been fired earlier Ramos Ayala v. Diaz Martinez, 707 F.Supp. 75 (DPR 1988).
     Accidental shooting by officer was not fourth amendment seizure; no civil rights liability for negligent shooting Matthews v. City of Atlanta, 699 F.Supp. 1552 (N.D.Ga 1988).
     Municipality not liable for shooting by minor child of offduty police officer using service revolver kept unsecured in the home Natt v. Labar, 543 A.2d 223 (Pa Cmwlth. 1988).
     " See also: Governmental Liability: Policy/Custom, Off Duty/Color of Law: Firearms Related

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