Los Angeles Office Secures Favorable Verdict on Behalf of Law Enforcement Agency in High-Stakes Civil Rights Matter

Los Angeles, Calif. (May 4, 2023) - Los Angeles Partner Tony M. Sain, with Associates Tori Bakken and Abigail McLaughlin, recently secured a favorable jury verdict in a wrongful death civil rights matter on behalf of a law enforcement agency in California.  

This case arose following the restraint and subsequent death of a man suspected of disturbing neighbors in an apartment complex. The plaintiff in the matter alleged several claims, including municipal-Monell liability against the county on grounds of excessive restraint force, supervisory liability against the county sheriff, as well as vicarious liability against the county for battery/unreasonable force and negligence in restraint by a peace officer. The demand in the case was in the seven-figure range. When the matter failed to resolve at mediation, it proceeded to trial. 

Following an eight-day trial, the jury issued a defense verdict on the federal excessive force and battery claim, and thus a defense verdict on the Monell and supervisory liability claims, as well as on the attorneys’ fees and punitive damages claims. The jury determined, however, that the deputies’ negligence during a portion of the incident at issue caused the plaintiff’s decedent to sustain an injury. As such, the jurors awarded damages to the plaintiff. Nevertheless, the jury also found that the decedent was 80% liable for this negligence injury. Accordingly, the court is reducing, by 80%, the damages award. Moreover, the court noted that the inconsistent partial plaintiff’s verdict on negligence was likely subject to challenge by the defendants on appeal. That is, the jury’s finding on federal excessive force and battery indicated that they reached a factual finding that precluded negligent seizure/force claims under California law. 

Mr. Sain is a member of the General Liability and National Trial Practices. He focuses his practice on high exposure, high-stakes, high-profile matters in a wide variety of catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases across a number of practice areas, including personal injury, tort litigation, as well as police civil rights and public entity defense.  

Ms. Bakken is a member of the General Liability Practice. A rising star at trial, she regularly outmaneuvers trial attorneys with decades more experience; and she is fast developing renown as one of the most effective cross-examiners of her generation.

Ms. McLaughlin is a member of the General Liability Practice. After graduation from University of Oklahoma College of Law, she worked at a boutique probate litigation firm, handling all aspects of cases from inception to settlement or trial, and then at a mid-size firm as a member of their strategy, writs, and appeals team.

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