What can be done about police brutality?
Lawsuits for money damages may be filed against individual officers and the cities and counties that employ them for acts of police brutality.
Such lawsuits are similar–but in many ways quite different–from traditional personal injury lawsuits. They are typically brought by firms like Henley & Henley, P.C., on contingency fee agreements. That is the client does not pay any money out of his pocket to retain counsel, but assigns a percentage (often between 1/3 and 40 percent) of whatever money is recovered to his counsel. If there is no recovery, then the client owes nothing, including for the expenses, which can be several thousands of dollars, that are advanced during the lawsuit.
Police brutality cases differ substantially from traditional personal injury cases, like automobile accidents, because they involve suits against governmental actors and entities acting under the color of law. As a result, officers have qualified immunity, and their employers have “official immunity.” When it is established that an officer has qualified immunity, he cannot be sued. Determinations about qualified immunity are often made relatively early in the litigation by motions filed by lawyers representing the officers involved. If the officer wins either a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment (that is a decision by the judge not a jury) then the case is likely to end in most instances without the plaintiff receiving any compensation. To prevail on such motions, the plaintiff has to show not just a use of force–like a punch or kick–but that the officer knew at the time he was using such for force was unreasonable and that it violated that person’s constitutional rights. As a result, it can be quite difficult for such cases to advance.
Even after a favorable ruling on a motion for summary judgment has occurred, the officer may file an interlocutory appeal on that issue, or the claimant could lose at trial.
To know if you have an actionable police brutality case, you should call the attorneys at Henley & Henley, P.C.