Bystanders Injured in Police Shootouts May Face Trial
Since 2011, police bullets have struck 16 bystanders in New York City during shootouts with suspected criminals, yet city lawyers have indicated that settlements in the cases will not be forthcoming. This means that many innocent bystanders could face lengthy court battles as the city takes them to trial rather than settling. Empire State Building Shooting Even nationally televised police-bystander shootings are not immune from the city’s hard stance against lawsuits. In the summer of 2012, ten people near the Empire State Building were struck when police fired 16 shots at a gunman who was fleeing a murder scene. The gunman was killed and nine pedestrians were injured in a shooting that then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called “an appropriate, heroic response,” stating at the time that it was “sad that anyone else was injured.” In September, Sahar Khoshakhlagh, along with another female bystander, was injured in a police shooting near Times Square when police shot at a man they mistakenly believed had a gun. Ms. Khoshakhlagh has taken steps to file legal action, but a 2010 case may make it difficult for her, or those injured at the Empire State Building, to succeed in court. State Court of Appeals One reason that city lawyers are taking such a stance against bystander injuries in police shootings is due to a case dismissed by the State Court of Appeals in 2010. Lawyers say that the state’s highest court agreed that police officers must sometimes make split-second decisions to use deadly force, and that lawsuits cause them to second-guess those decisions. In addition, city lawyers believe most policing lawsuits have little merit, labeling them “no-pay” cases. Despite the fact that the city claims they are evaluating each case on its individual circumstances, defense attorneys for most of those seeking compensation say that they have been told that the city is not interested in negotiating settlements. Three Settlements Since 2010 The city settled only three bystander cases since 2010, and says that if plaintiffs are willing to accept small awards, they are willing to settle. In addition, they can apply to the Office of Victim Services for reimbursement of medical bills and other expenses. Since 2003, the city has paid more than $18 million for 21 police-involved bystander cases, $9.8 million of which were through three large jury awards. The city did agree to settle a lawsuit, filed by Cedric Simmons, who was injured when police fired 46 shots into a crowded block, for $850,000. The police were shooting at two men they claimed pulled a gun and fired on them. Both suspects were shot, along with four other bystanders, and one of the suspects died. The second suspect, along with another bystander, have filed suit against the city, and are expected to move to trial. The Grand Jury failed to indict the second suspect on gun charges, prompting his lawsuit. When police error is suspected as the cause or a contributing factor in an accident that leads to injury or death, a lawsuit may be in order. Contact Dallas-Fort Worth lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel to schedule a free initial consultation regarding an incident where injuries may have been caused or worsened by police errors.