In August of 2016, an individual went on a violent crime spree in Worcester, Massachusetts. This individual, in a short period of time, committed multiple sexual assaults, a carjacking and kidnapping as well as an armed robbery. Worcester police officers were able to locate and to arrest this individual at the scene of the armed robbery. The individual later was convicted criminally and sentenced to prison.
Although, due to the convictions, the plaintiff was precluded from challenging the legitimacy of the arrest, the law provides that even an arrest that is justified by probable cause can be made with too much force. In this instance, the plaintiff sued two Worcester police officers and alleged that, while he was being arrested, excessive force was used and, more specifically, that he was punched, kicked, choked and spat upon by the officers. The plaintiff claimed physical and emotional injury and sought millions of dollars in compensation.
Summary judgment in an excessive force claim is difficult to achieve because the standard requires that, on any material point in which there is a dispute between parties, the party moving for summary judgment has to accept the other side’s version of facts insofar as it is supported by admissible evidence. In other words, if the plaintiff says that he was kicked without justification, the defendant has to accept that version even if the defendant denies any kicking and disputes the lack of justification.
In this piece of litigation, RJA Attorney Andy Gambaccini represented the officers. Through the course of discovery, a summary judgment evidentiary record was created that emphasized the circumstances that the arresting officers were presented with at the time of the plaintiff’s arrest. Through the preparation of that evidentiary record and the highlighting of instances in which the plaintiff’s version of events changed over time, a motion was prepared seeking judgment in favor of the officers on the excessive force theory.
After the briefing by the parties, the federal judge presiding over the case agreed with the arguments made on behalf of the officers and entered summary judgment in their favor, ending the case. The decision noted that, in light of the record presented, the force used by the officers was objectively reasonable in the circumstances.