Civil Rights/Police Misconduct *


In General

These cases are difficult, and few law firms handle them well.  The law of “governmental immunity” is complex, and the Courts recently have taken a very conservative approach to civil rights.  In other words, the value of life is held less dearly by the current legal system.  We accept these cases as a challenge to our entire society’s sense of fair play and Due Process.  The statute of limitations for federal civil rights cases is generally 3 years, and the statute for State cases is generally 2 years – although there are exceptions.  The key to all civil rights cases is pre-filing investigation, if time permits.  Each civil rights case is an important exercise of citizenship – we and our clients act as “the conscience of the community.”


Denial of Medical Care in Jail: $750,000 settlement

A 67 year old resident of Kalkaska was found unconscious, and was taken to jail in Kalkaska County, on suspicion of intoxication.  When jailers realized he had suffered a head injury, they transported him to a neighboring jail for reasons unknown – perhaps to avoid the expense of providing medical care.  After 4 days, the client was discharged to the hospital, where he was treated and rehabilitation was started.  Unfortunately, because treatment was delayed so long, his brain swelling caused permanent damage.


Sexual Assault on Children in Daycare: $1,000,000 verdict/settlement

A man abused his own children.  The children were placed in a “safe house”.  When the funding ran out, the children were sent home, but social workers decided to “get the abuser out of the house” by making him volunteer for community work.  He volunteered to work at a children’s daycare, where he raped and abused the children.  We sued the Daycare and the State of Michigan, and achieved $500,000 settlement during trial and $500,000 verdict.  The key to this lawsuit was dogged determination – we filed a federal suit, a state appeal, and eventually, at trial, we proved that the Daycare and State failed to screen caregivers.  We went to the top of the State administration to learn the truth, and as a result of the lawsuit, the State now mandates that caregivers’ records be checked for wrong-doing. 


Sheriff Interferes with Cold Water Drowning Rescue: $600,000 verdict ($1,000,000 settlement)

A young man was pushed, or jumped off a bridge in Manistee, after drinking.  Two local scuba divers arrived at the scene, but were told not to attempt a rescue.  An hour later, the sheriff dive team performed a body recovery, but it was too late.  We proved the Sheriff had a “turf war” with local divers, and threatened them not to rescue drowning victims.  This case lasted 9 years.  We filed 2 successful appeals of adverse rulings.  We retained the best experts (US Coast Guard Director of Safety; US Dive Rescue training director).  The key to the case was believing in the client’s story – and asking, “How could our government allow something like this to happen?”   We believed, and proved the client’s unbelievable story was true.  We went through two trials, two appeals, and after the $600,000 verdict, we settled the case for $1,000,000.  Read News Article  (may take a minute to download)

    

Jail Hanging: $600,000 settlement

Investigation again played the key role in a case.  A young man tried to hang himself, after 70 days in jail on his first drunk driving charge.  He suffered a subtle closed head injury.  We proved it was not an accident.   The jail knew he was despondent, and should have called mental health professionals. 


Jail Hanging: $350,000 settlement shortly after filing suit

A young man hung himself after jailers tried a “scared straight” program that back-fired.  (Jailers told the boy another inmate would be allowed to rape him.)  We found inmates who described the truth.  Settlement was reached shortly after filing suit – before a single deposition was taken.


Jail Sexual Contact: $175,000 settlement

A woman inmate was forced to have inappropriate touching with a jailer.  We proved the jailer had a prior incident.


* These civil rights cases are chosen from many more, to illustrate some of the variety of the issues we have dealt with.

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