Federal Jury Finds In Favor Of Victim Of Police Brutality
Two HPD officers were ordered to pay $1 million to a man who was savagely beaten during a routine traffic stop in 2017. The jury found that the two officers were responsible for unjustly harming the man and then conducting an illegal traffic stop of the victim’s car. One officer remains with HPD, but the other officer, who was alleged to have contributed the most violence to the beating, has since left the department. An internal investigation cleared both officers of wrongdoing.
The plaintiff alleged that he required surgery to repair damage to his shoulder ligaments and spine, and was unable to continue working as a mover after the incident occurred. The jury concluded that the two officers owe him a combined $1 million although the amount is still pending in litigation.
The issue that most defendants have when bringing these types of actions to a court is a lack of evidence. However, in this case, the jury was able to review profanity-laden bodycam footage showing the arrest. The jury concluded that this conduct was well outside the normal conduct of police officers conducting a traffic stop and held them liable for the man’s injuries.
According to police, the plaintiff was stopped after he “nearly hit” a squad car on his way home from work. However, the plaintiff was also wrenched physically from the vehicle, thrown on his face, and then his arm was hyper-extended behind his back. Internal Affairs, however, still insists that the police officers were acting within department policy during the stop.
Police officers and other government employees have qualified immunity. Essentially, they cannot be held liable for negligence while in the performance of their duties. This has prevented hundreds of thousands of similar lawsuits from being filed in court, especially under Texas’ strict sovereign immunity laws which protect public coffers from lawsuits.
However, the caveat is that the public employee must be acting within the scope of their duties. If, for example, a government street cleaner were to accidentally clean a pedestrian to death, that would be an example of negligence. The pedestrian and their family would be able to sue the government, but not the individual. In cases where a police officer beats an individual just because they’re mad, the police officer is not acting within the scope of their duty, which means that qualified immunity doesn’t apply. Qualified immunity only extends to negligence actions, not intentional torts.
Nonetheless, the Houston police department backed the officers, claiming that their actions were within the scope of their duties and did not violate department policy. A jury disagreed, so the Houston PD will have to live with the decision, and the two officers who beat the plaintiff are now on the hook for his medical expenses, emotional damages, and lost wages.
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The Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers litigate cases on behalf of those injured due to the negligence or intentional malice of another party. Call today to learn more about how we can recover damages related to your injuries and hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.