Federal jury rejects excessive force claims made against a Westport, Massachusetts police officer

On May 10, 2013, a unanimous jury in federal court in Boston returned a verdict in favor of a police officer for the Town of Westport Police Department, rejecting the plaintiff’s allegations that the officer had used excessive force during the course of a disturbance in September, 2007.  The case began when police and first responders were dispatched to a single car motor vehicle accident with two individuals having sustained serious injuries.  By the time the officers and EMTs arrived, several residents from the area, including many individuals from the same family, had come outside to look at the accident scene.

One of the family members, who had been consuming alcohol that evening, became involved in actions that hindered the ability of the EMTs to treat the crash victims and was told by the EMTs, on several occasions, to back away and let them do their jobs.  When the man persisted, the EMTs asked the police officers to remove the man from the area.  When told to leave by the police, the man responded with profanities and continued disturbing the peace of the area and interfering with the ability of the EMTs to treat the injured.  Ultimately, the man was told that he was going to be placed under arrest, at which point he actively resisted the attempts of the officers to handcuff him.

As officers tried to subdue the struggling subject, the male’s family members converged on the officers, both verbally and physically challenging the officers’ ability to arrest the male.  The plaintiff, who is the brother of the person that police were trying to arrest, alleged that, during the course of the chaos, and as he was trying to do nothing more than defuse the situation, he was yanked by his arm and struck in the face with pepper spray.  From the physical contact, the plaintiff claimed serious injury to his shoulder, which had been operated on just weeks prior.

The plaintiff’s allegations of excessive force were heard by a jury over the course of five days.  After an hour and a half of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the officer.

RESULT:  Jury verdict in favor of the police officer.

RJA Counsel:  Andrew J. Gambaccini