In a case handled by RJA Attorney Andrew Gambaccini, a federal judge last week dismissed federal civil rights claims against a police officer from the Fall River Police Department. The primary plaintiff’s allegations generally were that he was present in an apartment when members of the Fall River Vice Unit executed a search warrant and, during the warrant execution, he was kicked in the head repeatedly. That plaintiff brought a federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging that he was the victim of excessive force, that officers failed to intervene in the use of excessive force and that officers also failed to provide him with medical attention. The plaintiff, who is black, further claimed that the officers were involved in a conspiracy to harm him based on his race. The plaintiff’s two daughters also sued, claiming that their relationships with their father had been damaged because of his injuries.
A motion to dismiss resulted in the federal court’s rejection of the conspiracy and state civil rights claims, as well as all claims by the two daughters. Discovery proceeded concerning the limited federal claims remaining and the plaintiff repeatedly was pressed to substantiate his allegations. When the plaintiff failed to cooperate in discovery, a motion to dismiss based upon his discovery failures was filed. The federal court permitted the plaintiff a last bite at the apple but, when he failed to cooperate again, all of the remaining claims of the plaintiff were dismissed with prejudice. Although the Judge noted that dismissal of claims based upon a failure to cooperate in discovery is an extreme sanction that only should be used in situations where there is no other alternative, the Judge was persuaded that this situation fit that high standard.