Recent Ninth Circuit Police Opinions
Over the past few months, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has released a pair of decisions in police liability.
In Chaudhry v. Los Angeles the appellate court found that — in wrongful-death civil rights cases filed in California — the decedent’s Estate (i.e. the party standing in the shoes of the decedent and continuing his/her claim) may recover for pre-death pain and suffering damages. Previously, the Ninth Circuit had not ruled on the issue. The issue had been left to the four District Courts in California, who had to reconcile state and federal law. The District Courts had been split. Post-Chaudhry, plaintiffs in federal civil rights litigation will be able to recover more money.
In Cruz v. Anaheim, the appellate court reversed summary judgment for the defendant (finding a triable issue of fact for the jury). In doing so, however, the Court reaffirmed officers’ right to self-defense. “It would be unquestionably reasonable for police to shoot a suspect in Cruz’s position if he reaches for a gun in his waistband, or even if he reaches there for some other reason. reason. Given Cruz’s dangerous and erratic behavior up to that point, the police would doubtless be justified in responding to such a threatening gesture by opening fire.” Cruz, — F. 3d –, 2014 WL 4236706, * 1. The Court emphasized: “[t]o decide this case a jury would have to answer just one simple question: Did the police see Cruz reach for his waistband? If they did, they were entitled to shoot; if they didn’t, they weren’t.” (Id., at * 2).
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