Houston Monell Liability Lawsuit Lawyer
Recently, a string of headlines involving police brutality and excessive force have dominated the news headlines. While these news stories have shed light on a very big problem and have started many important discussions, the issue often comes back to immunity. Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects police officers, and the entities they work for, from civil liability, which means it is very difficult to file lawsuits against them. Often this is true, but victims can and should pursue justice if they have a significant case.
Monell Liability Lawsuits
The Monell doctrine was established in 1978 in the landmark case, Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York. The doctrine now provides a way in which victims of police misconduct can pursue financial compensation through a civil lawsuit against an entity (e.g. City or County).
Under the Monell doctrine, municipalities can be held liable for the actions of a police officer, if the victim can prove the officer violated their constitutional rights. Victims of police brutality must also show the violation was a result of a policy or custom of the entity the law enforcement officer worked for, or as a result of their failure to properly train the police officer. While Monell liability is not respondeat superior (employer liability), it is a way to hold an entity responsible where the municipality’s unconstitutional acts were the driving force behind the unconstitutional conduct (e.g. excessive force).
Essentially, the Monell doctrine allows plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against a government entity only if they can prove the misconduct was a result of a policy enacted by them. In this case, the plaintiff is suing the government entity for the policy the officer followed; but, the plaintiff may still sue the police officer for his/her actual actions too.
Lawsuits Against Officers in Individual Capacity
When a police officer violates your constitutional rights and they are not simply following the policy outlined by their department, you can file a civil lawsuit against them directly. The qualified immunity that protects police officers does not apply when they were clearly incompetent and have violated your constitutional rights.
Use of Force Continuum
A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a subject in a given situation. Generally, no more force may be used than is necessary to gain compliance. The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Graham v. Connor, (1989) ruled that excessive use of force claims must be evaluated under the “objectively reasonable” standard of the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, the “reasonableness” factor of a use of force incident must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene and judged with the understanding that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation. However, when use of force moves too quickly or jumps over a tier of the continuum, liability may be present. The use of force continuum resembles the following:
Types of Monell Cases Gilde Law Firm Retains
Unfortunately, because of immunity, when police officers and their entity commit constitutional violations, they often get away with it. The legal hurdles, cost of litigation, and burdens of proof surrounding these cases often make filing a case nearly impossible. As a consequence, most lawyers shy away from 1983 cases and Monell cases specifically. While Gilde Law Firm is different, we have to be selective in the types of cases we retain. Therefore, Gilde Law Firm only retains the following types of 1983 cases and Monell cases:
- Unlawful Search & Seizure Resulting in Wrongful Death
- Excessive Force Resulting in Wrongful Death
- Unlawful Search & Seizure Resulting in Significant Catastrophic Personal Injury (e.g. burns from a taser, heart attacks, broken bone(s), torn muscles or ligaments, significant blunt force trauma, asphyxiation, and suffocation)
- Excessive Force Resulting in Significant Catastrophic Personal Injury (e.g. burns from a taser, heart attacks, broken bone(s), torn muscles or ligaments, significant blunt force trauma, asphyxiation, and suffocation)
- Monell cases where there is a pattern and practice of the complained-of unconstitutional conduct or where the unconstitutional conduct was ratified after the fact
Our Houston Civil Rights Lawyers Can Help with Monell Liability and Individual Capacity Lawsuits
If you have been the victim of police brutality, our Houston civil rights lawyers at Gilde Law Firm will help you hold the offending officer accountable. Through a lawsuit you can recover damages for all of your losses, including medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Call us today at 800-973-3106 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.