U.S. Supreme Court Allows Wrongful Death Claim against Police & City to Move Forward
At the end of October, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal by a state concerning a lower court’s decision on a wrongful death lawsuit brought over a 2013 fatal police shooting. The Court’s refusal to hear the case not only means that this particular wrongful death lawsuit in connection with a police shooting can move forward, but it also arguably sends a message to law enforcement in every state that police officers can be sued for wrongful death even if they shoot someone in the course of their job.
The original lawsuit was brought in connection with a burglary suspect who was shot by police in Minneapolis after a struggle five years ago. The suit—which seeks $1 million in damages and names the officers, former police chief, and the city as defendants—alleges that the victim/suspect had already surrendered when he was shot.
Florida’s Own Challenges with Law Enforcement & Wrongful Death
Florida has had its fair share of suspicious circumstances involving death claims filed in connection with police officer shootings: in late October, a wrongful death lawsuit was filed over the killing of a man who officers claim was armed, but who witnesses say did not have any weapons and who was shot through a closed door. In addition, earlier this year, a jury awarded one family damages for pain and suffering and related expenses in connection with the shooting of a father of three by a St. Lucie deputy, who allegedly shot the man through his garage door.
Unfortunately, investigations into shootings like these can take years because it is frequently difficult to obtain the necessary documents and evidence surrounding what, exactly, happened. However, there is a two-year statute of limitations in bringing civil wrongful death claims. In addition, there are frequently efforts made to vilify the victims; claims that they brandished weapons in spite of contradictory witness statements.
While some of these cases come before juries, some are instead decided by Florida City Commissions if there is a settlement. For example, earlier this year, Hallandale Beach City Commission voted to pay the family of one man who was shot by a SWAT team who entered his home $425,000. Officers were reportedly serving a search warrant as part of a narcotics investigation, but instead killed the victim and his dog. The family alleged that the “military-style raid” conducted by the officers resulted in “unnecessary confusion and chaos,” resulting in the victim’s death. They also alleged that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when they used excessive force against him.
Speak With Our Experienced Florida Wrongful Death Attorneys
If the negligent or intentional act of a government representative has cost you the life of a loved one, contact our experienced Florida wrongful death attorneys at Lavalle, Brown & Ronan right away to find out what your rights are and how we can help.