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PostPosted: Fri Jun 22, 2001 4:36 pm 
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Joined: Mon Nov 20, 2000 6:01 am
Posts: 493
Location: Framingham, MA USA
Here is a case having many facets and will test your reasoning whether or not you agree with all in the decision. The use of force is always a troublesome thing to equate with the balance of duty and what might be negligence or even criminal conduct. The tests involve reasonableness under the circumstances, and duties owed.

Please note that the applied tests in the following case will seem familiar to readers of this and other forums when it comes to application of negligence and a breach of some duty, whether applied to MA’s engaged in sport, competition, self defense or LEOs inb the line of duty.

The following case reviewed conduct of reasonable force in a police arrest , and duties of third parties involved and even of alleged civil rights violations:

An arrestee who is handcuffed to a “suicide wall”, in a Boston Police station booking office,
obtained a police officer’s weapon and began and began shooting it. Another officer in the station shot the arrestee in the arm.

The arrestee later filed suit in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts alleging violations of his state and federal rights. The decision was appealed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals which decided this case.

The defendants in the suit were, in addition to the City of Boston, the Boston Emergency Services Team and New England Medical Center Hospitals Inc, the latter two with respect to negligence and breach of contract counts, which this plaintiff asserted.

In the original trial, the City of Boston requested the court to rule that the plaintiff’s assertion of “excessive” and “unreasonable force” failed to meet any requirements of a four point test that the district court applied. The D.C. held that there was a clear need for the use of force when the PO shot the arrestee in the arm, namely because he was firing a gun and had already shot a PO and a fellow prisoner. In addition that the force was proportionate to the need, and considering the circumstances, arrestee’s injury was relatively minor. Finally, there was absolutely no evidence of bad faith on the part of the shooting PO, or that his actions were taken maliciously or sadistically for the purposes of inflicting harm.

The appeals court stated that in reviewing all of the above facts and any other material facts which could be construed most favorable to the arrestee, no evidence was perceived which could sustain the claim. The court said “Without commenting on the appropriate test to be employed when evaluating an excessive and unreasonable force claim in these circumstances, we affirm the holding of the District Court on this issue”.

The negligence and lack of care charges. Many readers here have seen in other posts, that negligence and duty go hand in hand. I see many questions come up in these forums concerning negligence. When courts rule on negligence there must be an obligation or duty breached or violated considered in the decision.

This said the court goes on to rule: “As to Garcia’s (the arrestee) denial of medical and psychological care charge, the district court first identified a ‘duty’ to attend to a prisoner’s
“serious medical needs” The court found that Garcia’s psychological problem constituted “serious medical needs” Garcia however, did not demonstrate that his failure to receive inpatient treatment was the result of an unconstitutional custom or policy. The BPD did have a policy for handling suicidal prisoners like Garcia. It was Garcia’s unusual situation of being uninsured and pre-arraignment, coupled with the Department of Mental Health’s policy of refusing to admit Psychiatric patients who had not been arraigned, that resulted in Garcia not being placed in a facility , “Deliberate indifference to Garcia’s medical needs played no role in this incident Thus Garcia’s Section 1983 claim necessarily failed”.

You may or may not agree with all that the courts held. To me it was evident that red tape delayed treatment, and although this could not be related to a civil rights violation, the red tape resulted in postponement of treatment to a dangerous psychologically challenged individual.

What do you think?

In the negligence case and denial of medical and psychological care charges, the DC

The case is: Garcia v. City of Boston eta al. Ist Circuit Court of Appeals (Docket No. 00-2369) and was reported in Lawyer’s Weekly


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