Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bodybuilder's police brutality claim against Redwood City may go to trial

Judge Richard Seeborg largely denied Redwood City's motion to throw out former Mr. Natural Universe's police brutality lawsuit.  This case has made headlines as the City has tried to combat allegations that its officers used excessive force against Doug Burns at a movie theater on April 7, 2007.

Mr. Burns sued Redwood City, the Redwood City Police Department and three police officers: Jaime Mateo, David Gough and Ramiro Perez for injuries sustained as a result of the fracas at the Century 20 Theater in Redwood City under federal and state civil rights statutes.

According to the court, Mr. Burns is a diabetic who went into shock due to low blood sugar.  He says that he fell over onto Officer Mateo, Officer Mateo says that Mr. Burns viciously attacked him.  Various eyewitnesses corroborate one of those two accounts, the determination of which affects the outcome of this case.  If Officer Mateo and later Sgt. Gough used excessive force disproportionate to the threat Mr. Burns produced then they have violated his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  That, in turn is a violation of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 and California Civil Code 52.1.

The Court dismissed the Monell claim that the Redwood City did not take adequate measures to train officers to recognize and respond to diabetic shock. Judge Seeborg stated that "[c]ertainly there may be a question of fact as to whether the officers followed their training in all meaningful respects" but the presence of training was enough to shield the city from liability under 1983.  Redwood City continues to face vicarious liability for the 52.1 claim.

The case is Burns v. City of Redwood City No. C 08-2995 and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion.

Burns v. Redwood City MSJ

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