Fri. Aug 12th, 2022

The plaintiff, Jorge Velez, alleged in a lawsuit filed on August 3 that a Maywood Police Officer, Hector Matias (a.k.a. H. Matais), gave chase to Velez for unknown reasons. Matias then allegedly rammed Velez’s motorcycle with his police cruiser, severely injuring Velez. Officer Matias wasn’t done however. He then allegedly rammed Velez’s face into the ground repeatedly, reports the Courthouse News Service.

That’s a sucky day. And that day wasn’t quite over, as Matias then arrested Velez and filed charges. Fortunately for the quite-sore-plaintiff, the prosecutor dropped the charges after reviewing a surveillance tape of the incident.

In addition to the standard excessive force and battery claims that we see so often on this blog, there are two special claims that Velez pleaded that are meant to hold the City of Maywood liable for the actions of their model officer, Hector Matias.

The more common claim that you’d see in many personal injury lawsuits is the respondeat superior claim. It alleges that the conduct happened in the course of the assailant’s employment. Employers are typically liable for the acts of their employees that occur when the employee is on duty. Except…

While respondeat superior covers Velez’s battery claim, it doesn’t apply to violations of constitutional rights. Under the 1978 Monell Supreme Court case, and a few other cases that followed, those that seek to hold a municipality liable for the actions of an employee that violate the constitutional rights of a plaintiff must show either an official policy that enables the behavior, or a long-standing informal policy that does the same.

Yep, that’s a lot of law, so let’s use an example. An on-duty cop with a history of mental illness constantly rants about hating gingers. One day, he takes his baton and beats a redhead that he catches jaywalking to a bloody pulp. The unofficial policy of the department is to wait until an officer has shown definitively that they are a danger to themselves or others before they are taken off-duty for mental illness.

Could his police department be held liable? If the redhead sues for battery, respondeat superior would make it a possibility that the department was liable. If she sues for excessive force and police brutality under her constitutional rights, the policy of ignoring mentally-ill anti-ginger cops might be enough to hold them liable for the violations, as it was a foreseeable result of their conduct, or lack thereof.

Getting back to the Maywood beatdown, Velez’ suit claims that the unofficial policy of not investigating prior misconduct allegations and the unofficial sanctioning of “pay back” on suspected criminals and gang members was behavior sufficient for a Monell claim. We’ll see if the judge and jury agree.

By admin

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