AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Law Journal Article: Use
of an Electronic Control Weapon on a Person Suffering from Delirium or
Other Agitated Condition, Part 1, 2015 (3) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Use of an Electronic Control Weapon on a Person Suffering from Delirium or Other Agitated Condition, Part 2, 2015 (4) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.
An officer used
a Taser in dart mode against a man who looked like he was holding his granddaughter
in a choke hold while trying to perform an exorcism on her to drive out
demons. The Taser was used because the man refused to let go of the child.
The man was Tasered several more times in stun mode as he was kicking the
officer, although that may have been a reaction to being Tasered. An officer
also used a Taser in stun mode against the man’s daughter who also was
present and resisted him. The man died, allegedly of “excited delirium”
after being Tasered multiple times. Summary judgment was granted to Taser
on failure to warn claims, and to the city, and the officers on excessive
force claims. The officers’ use of force was not so “plainly unnecessary
and disproportionate that no reasonable officer could have thought that
the force used was legal.” Marquez v. City of Phoenix, #CV-08-1132 2010
U.S. Dist. Lexis 88545 (D. Ariz.).
When a coroner’s report indicated that a man had died as a result of excited delirium and the presence of cocaine in his system, and that the application of a Taser did not cause or contribute to the man’s death, the manufacturer could not be held liable under Louisiana state law. The man was being transported in an ambulance from a bar after he became ill. He was stunned by police with the Taser once after he began waving a knife at paramedics and shaking it violently. Smith v. Louisiana State Police, #07-1189, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 73689 (E.D. La.). In a subsequent decision, the court further held that officers could not be held liable for the man’s death, as the prior decision holding that the Taser use did not contribute to the death negated a key element of civil rights liability for excessive force, that the injury resulted directly from the use of force, which wass unreasonable under the circumstances. Smith v. Louisiana State Police, #07-1189, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 11708 (E.D. La.).
Summary judgment was properly granted to the manufacturer of the Taser used by sheriff’s deputies against an arrestee prior to her death, as the plaintiffs failed to show that the use of the Taser caused her death. The deputies acted reasonably in using the Taser against the arrestee because she refused to comply with their orders and engaged in active resistance to a lawful arrest. Additionally, there was a lack of evidence that the deputies should have known that the arrestee’s behavior indicated a serious disease rather than constituting a temporary response to her known use of methamphetamine. There was no evidence that the deputies knew that the failure to provide prompt medical treatment would lead to her death. In particular, the court stated, the deputies “had no knowledge of the medical condition called ‘excited delirium’ or its accompanying risk of death. Mann v. Taser International, Inc., #08-16951, 588 F.3d 1291, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 26155 (11th Cir.).
The city of Portland, Oregon has reached a $1.6 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a mentally ill man who died after a confrontation with police for urinating on a sidewalk in which they allegedly threw him face-first into a concrete sidewalk, further assaulted him, and covered up the incident, to which there were numerous witnesses. An officer claimed to paramedics and other witnesses that he had found cocaine on the suspect, when he allegedly knew that what he bagged as evidence were bread crumbs. The city intended to argue at trial, before the settlement was reached, that he died of excited delirium, and that fractures to his ribs were the result of three CPR attempts by police and ambulance personnel. The county previously reached a $925,000 settlement with the plaintiffs, and an ambulance company settled claims against it for $600,000. Chasse v. Humphreys, #3:07-cv-00189, U.S. Dist. Ct. (D. Ore., June 1, 2009).
Officers were on notice, based on prior cases finding “compression asphyxia,” that keeping a person who was in a state of “excited delirium” restrained with his or her chest to the ground while applying pressure to the back and ignoring pleas that the subject could not breathe constituted excessive force under the Fourth Amendment. They were therefore not entitled to qualified immunity in a lawsuit alleging that they caused a man’s death by restraint or positional asphyxiation by keeping him prone and handcuffed while in an agitated state, suffocating him under their weight. Arce v. Blackwell, #06-17302, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 20162 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).
Police officers did not use excessive force in restraining “psychotic and aggressive” man who refused to obey police orders to leave premises of music studio, refused orders to drop a pen he was holding, and resisted efforts to handcuff him. Medical evidence showed that he died from a heart attack during the encounter, and was susceptible to one because of 90% blockage in his arteries. Court finds no evidence that he died of asphyxia or was choked, or that a purported inadequacy in training as to how to arrest persons exhibiting signs of excited delirium syndrome caused his death. Gregory v. County of Maui, #06-15374, 523 F.3d 1103 (9th Cir. 2008), affirming Civ. #04-00516, 414 F.Supp.2d 965 (D. Hawaii 2006).
Town was not liable, on the basis of alleged inadequate training, for the death of a drug-intoxicated arrestee in the course of an arrest, allegedly through positional asphyxia. The court found that the town did not have information about the risks of a cocaine-induced excited delirium and the potential serious consequences of a prone restraint of such an arrestee, and therefore did not act with deliberate indifference in failing to train its officers concerning such circumstances. Watkins v. New Castle County, #CIV.A. 03-791, 374 F.Supp.2d 379 (D. Del. 2005).
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