AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Firearms Related: Negligent 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: Federal Civil Rights Liability for Accidental Shootings by Officers, 2016 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
Officers pursuing a suspect in an attempted armed robbery in New York returned gunfire after the suspect refused to drop his weapon and fired at them. While the officers did not see any bystanders or pedestrians in the immediate area during the ensuing gun battle, a bullet struck the elbow of a woman playing with her infant daughter and socializing with neighbors on the street near her residence. She sued the officers and city for negligent use of firearms in violation of departmental guidelines. The highest court in New York ruled that her claims were properly dismissed. It was undisputed that all officers who fired did so when they had a clear view of the suspect, who was firing at them or other officers, and that they did not see the plaintiff, her daughter, or other bystanders in the area. Under these circumstances, they had the discretion to fire their weapons, and there was no issue concerning whether they unnecessarily endangered innocent persons. Johnson v. City of N.Y., #192, 2010 N.Y. Lexis 3334.
In a lawsuit over a police officer's shooting and killing of a woman under the influence of drugs, armed with knives, who was believed to pose a threat to herself or relatives, the jury found the decedent to be 5% negligent, the city to be 45% negligent, and the officer to be 50% negligent. The evidence, however, was insufficient to show direct negligence by the city, so there was no basis for allocating a portion of the damages to the municipality under California law. Because the jury's assessment of fault in the case indicated that the officer was 10 times more at fault that the decedent, liability should be divided to make the decedent 9% at fault, and the officer 91% at fault. Munoz v. City of Union City, No. A110121, 2007 Cal. App. Lexis 278 (1st Dist.).
Despite a prior jury verdict in a federal civil rights lawsuit in favor of officers who fatally shot a man twenty-two times as he was attempting to evade arrest, the officers could still possibly face liability for negligence under California state law for the same incident on a theory that they unnecessarily put themselves in the way of harm, and therefore had to "shoot their way out." The jury verdict in the federal civil rights case only dealt with the constitutionality of the use of deadly force under the circumstances that existed at the time of the shooting, and did not decide the question of whether the officers' prior actions constituted negligence. Hernandez v. City of Pomona, No B182437, 2006 Cal. App. Lexis 1925 (2nd Dist.). [N/R]
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]
347:171 Man shot by confidential informant with gun allegedly borrowed from police officer could sue officer on "state-created-danger" theory; officer was not entitled to qualified immunity; city was not liable, however, as no policy or customer of inadequate storage of evidence (including the gun) was shown, and no policy of inadequate training. McClendon v. City of Columbia, No. 00-60256, 258 F.3d 432 (5th Cir. 2001).
322:156 Jury awards $5.7 million to surviving family of woman taken hostage by bank robber and then shot and killed during shootout with police; lawsuit claimed it was negligent to return fire rather than to attempt to negotiate for hostage's release. Vargas v. City of New York, N.Y. Sup. Ct. (Manhattan), reported in The New York Times, National Edition, p. A20 (July 21, 1999).
320:124 Officer's "negligent storage" of his weapon at home was "incidental" to his employment; city was vicariously liable for $1.575 million to estate of minor shot and killed by officer's minor son, who obtained the gun from an unlocked cabinet in the house. Gaffney v. City of Chicago, 706 N.E.2d 914 (Ill. App. 1999).
291:36 Officer who shot arrestee in the head was entitled to a jury instruction that arrestee, who committed violent crime with shotgun and then fled by vehicle and on foot may have "assumed the risk" of being shot; arrestee's last minute cooperation seconds before officer's firearm discharged did not alter this result in arrestee's negligence lawsuit Fernandez v. City of New York, 645 N.Y.S.2d 1004 (Sup 1996).
285:139 Jury awards $16 million to family of 13-year-old boy shot and killed at party by 14-year-old son of police officer, using gun he took from father's unlocked storage cabinet in the family home; officer and city found liable Gaffney v. Crocker, Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, Ill, May 24, 1996, reported in Chicago Tribune, p. 5 (May 25, 1996). [Cross- reference: Off-Duty/Color of Law]
286:153 Illinois Supreme Court orders new trial in case where jury reduced award to man shot by officers based on comparison of plaintiff's own negligence to officers' "willful and wanton" misconduct; whether such reduction would be proper would depend, court finds, on whether officers' misconduct was "intentional" as opposed to merely "reckless" Poole v. City of Rolling Meadows, 167 Ill 2d 41, 656 N.E.2d 768 (1995). [Cross- reference: Negligence: Comparative]
Officers and municipality were not liable for shooting of fleeing suspect that officers believed was reaching for a weapon Deodatti Colon v. Rosado Rivera, 846 F.Supp. 156 (D.Puerto Rico 1993).
Bystander could not sue officers and city for damages for his accidental injuries from bullet officers fired at armed felon they were pursuing; officers were acting in good faith and were entitled to official immunity Houston v. City of, v. Newsom, 858 S.W.2d 14 (Tex. App. 1993).
New York appeals court overturns $2 million award against city for officer's alleged negligent shooting at an armed suspect when there was a crowd nearby, hitting a bystander; amount awarded was excessive and jury was improperly allowed to consider alternate theory of liability based on officer's prior failure to stop and arrest suspect before gun fire began Rodriguez v. City of New York, 595 N.Y.S.2d 421 (A.D. 1993).
New York's highest court upholds overturning of $367 million judgment against city for failure to provide officer with a vest that might have protected him against death from shooting by barricaded suspect Brown v. Ashton, 93 Md App. 25, 611 A.2d 599 (1992).
City and police officer could be sued by estate of man shot by female police officer's husband with officer's service revolver; claim was no based on failure to provide police protection, but rather on the office's handling of her weapon and the city's policies and procedures for such handling Nelson v. City of Philadelphia, 613 A.2d 674 (Pa/Cmwlth. 1992).
City, rather than county, was liable for alleged negligence resulting in shooting, by barricaded armed man, of motorist passing by, when county officers on the scene were under the actual control of city supervisory personnel on the scene, despite the absence of a formal agreement to that effect Sheimo v. Bengston, 825 P.2d 343 (Wash App. 1992).
Widow of bystander shot by suspect who obtained officer's gun could not bring her own claim for loss of consortium in addition to wrongful death claim on behalf of her husband's estate Mease v. Pennsylvania State Police, 603 A.2d 679 (Pa/Cmwlth. 1992).
City's failure to provide officers with a newer type of bulletproof vest did not make it liable for officer's shooting death under New York law; supervisory personnel's "no-shoot" order at house barricade scene also did not render city liable for death; $367 million judgment overturned McCormack v. City of New York, 568 N.Y.S.2d 747 (A.D. 1991).
Dog owner awarder $1,786 for medical bills for dog shot by U.S. Capitol police officer, but could not recover damages for emotional distress at seeing shooting and eventual death of dog Kaiser v. United States, 761 F.Supp. 150 (DDC 1991).
15-year-old "hell raising" with fraternity at a campsite was contributorily negligent when shot and killed by ranger Harden v. United States, 688 F.2d 1025 (5th Cir. 1982).
Boy Scouts of America liable to boy shot in neck by camp counselor. This case is included because it is based on theories of negligent hiring and retention. In addition, many police departments are involved in youth group activities. Cosala v. Kay, 450 A.2d 508 (NJ 1982).
City liable for defendant officer's negligence in shooting another police officer and partially crippling him McKenna v. City of Memphis, 544 F.Supp. 415 (WD Tenn 1982).
Plaintiff allegedly attempting suicide at home contributorily negligent when officer shot and injured him Stone v. Keyport Boro Police Dept, 468 A.2d 442 (NJ Super 1983).
No liability to officer for firing gun in domestic fight Hopkins v. County of Laramie, Wyo, 730 F.2d 603 (10th Cir. 1984).
City cannot appeal $25,000 judgment since jury failed to enter judgment for all defendants Wilburn v. City of Chicago, 463 N.E.2d 789 (Ill App. 1984).
Placing finger on trigger while handcuffing suspect does not constitute negligence Dodd v. City of Norwich, 603 F.Supp. 514 (D. Conn. 1984).
No federal claim for accidental shooting; state claims resulted in award that drastically exceeded insurance coverage Leber v. Smith, 773 F.2d 101 (6th Cir. 1985).
State gives crippled man $56 million for accidental shooting during handcuffing. Wilson v. Beebe, 743 F.2d 342 (6th Cir. 1984).
City fails to prove veteran officer qualifies as expert witness McCleery v. City of Bakersfield, 216 Cal.Rptr. 852 (App. 1985).
Previous litigation against sheriff properly excluded Lanham v. Whitfield, 805 F.2d 970 (11th Cir. 1986).
Police officer's cocking his gun while escapee was lying on floor as ordered could amount to excessive force to impose liability for accidental death; fourth and fourteenth amendment claims may proceed, but not eighth amendment claim Patterson v. Fuller, 654 F.Supp. 418 (N.D.Ga 1987).
Police officer's shooting of suspect during drug raid was negligent at most, which was insufficient to support a section 1983 civil rights claim Rinker v. County of Napa, 820 F.2d 295 (9th Cir. 1987).
No recovery for "psychic trauma" suffered by individual whose dog was shot; recovery for negligence, however, was possible Fowler v. Town of Ticonderoga, 516 N.Y.S.2d 368 (A.D. 1987).
Estate of 16-year-old burglar accidentally shot when he reached for officer's gun could not bring civil rights or wrongful death action Dodd v. City of Norwich, 827 F.2d 1 (2d Cir. 1987).
Officer not liable for accidental shooting of unarmed man who failed to halt and obey officer's commands Miller v. Kennedy, 241 Cal.Rptr. 472 (Cal App. 1987).
Man fatally shot by officer found 80% negligent, but officer still liable for $20,000 for 20%, negligence Solomon v. Shuell, 420 N.W.2d 160 (Mich.App. 1988).
City liable for $3,385,726 for death of trainee shot during police academy training exercise; state not liable for failure to enact safety regulations Duncan v. State, 754 P.2d 1160 (Ariz App. 1988).
City not liable for shooting of unarmed alleged fleeing felon by police officer; shooting did not result from policy stated in police manual Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534 (11th Cir. 1988).
Officers were negligent in responding to "man with a gun" call in manner which could lead occupant to believe he was firing in self-defense Murphy v. City of Long Beach, 696 F.Supp. 500 (CD Cal 1988).
Plainclothes officer who failed to identify himself as police was negligent in pulling gun and firing during personal altercation Clancy v. County of Nassau, 530 N.Y.S.2d 587 (A.D. 1988).
Police officers acted reasonably in firing shots at fleeing bank robbery suspect Ford v. Childers, 855 F.2d 1271 (7th Cir. 1988).
Instruction to jury to find for defendant officers in shooting of armed robber unless officers acted with malice required new trial Heath v. Henning, 854 F.2d 6 (2d Cir. 1988).
" See also: Administrative Liability: Training; Governmental Liability: Local Government; Off Duty/Color of Law: Firearms Related
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