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Spangenberg Law Firm Defeats Qualified Immunity Motion in Excessive Force Case

Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP attorney Nicolas A. DiCello recently won a summary judgment against three police officers in an excessive force case and obtained a settlement on behalf of his client. The case involved a young man who suffered life-threatening injuries in an encounter with police officers while handcuffed.

The plaintiff sustained a tibial plateau fracture in an alleged beating by officers. The injury later developed serious complications including compartment syndrome, which can result in the loss of the affected limb.

“This is a relatively straightforward, simple fourth amendment claim for unreasonable force used under the circumstances. We maintain the officers, who took our client to the ground while his hands were cuffed behind his back used excessive force.” DiCello said.

The officers attempted to get the case thrown out using qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a doctrine that effectively protects police officers from personal liability for any injuries or death they cause while on the job and acting within the course and scope of their duties as law enforcement officers.

The court in the first instance decides whether police officers are entitled to qualified immunity. If so, the case is dismissed. The officers in this case were denied qualified immunity by the court.

“One of the most important things in the work we do for clients is getting over that motion asserting qualified immunity,” DiCello said. “Once you’ve defeated that motion, it’s a significant step forward in establishing a claim for a constitutional violation, so we’re thrilled with that result.”

Once a judge denies qualified immunity, defendants can appeal the judge's decision. The defendants in this case elected to waive their option to appeal the ruling. Since this ruling, attorneys Nicolas DiCello and Kevin Hulick have obtained a settlement on behalf of the client.

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