We’ve all heard stories of police using excessive force on suspected criminals. Unfortunately, these cases are not as rare as you might think. Since a variety of measures police officers take are discretionary, police officers routinely overestimate threats and use too much force as a result. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that of all individuals who had force used or threatened against them by police in 2008, an estimated 74% felt those actions were excessive. Males were more likely than females to have force used or threatened against them, and blacks were more likely than whites or Hispanics to experience use or the threat of force. However, not all claims against a city police officer can be pursued. Many are barred under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
In Bussey-Morice v. Kennedy, the plaintiff died during an encounter with the police in the city of Rockledge. The police officers on the scene used their tasers on the plaintiff between three and six times during the encounter. Later, the cause of death was deemed to be “cocaine excited delirium,” but the medical examiner also noted the decedent had conditions such as pulmonary emphysema and lung adhesions.
The plaintiff’s personal representative filed a lawsuit against the city and each police officer involved in the incident, alleging claims for excessive force, battery, and wrongful death due to negligent training. The district court partially granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, noting that the theory of sovereign immunity applied. Continue reading →