Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marcereau & Nazif Force the LAPD to Pay $550,000 for Police Brutality

I don't know whether police excessive force across the country has increased in recent years, or that we are just seeing more examples of it in the news now that there are security cameras and cell phone cameras everywhere. Whatever the case, something has to be done to curb the violence.  Trial Lawyers do their part by holding cities and police agencies accountable for their actions.

Marcereau & Nazif recently forced the LAPD to pay $550,000 for assaulting a woman who was pulled over for a cell phone violation.  The woman, 34 year old nurse Michelle Jordan, was on her way to visit her grandmother in the hospital when she was pulled over by the LAPD.  After being pulled over and told she was going to be given a ticket for talking on her cell phone, Ms. Jordan exited her car to argue with the police officer.  The police officer ordered her to get back in her car.  When Ms. Jordan did not immediately comply, the police officer arrested Ms. Jordan and handcuffed her hands behind her back and put her against the squad car.  Ms. Jordan, upset with how she was being treated, told the police officer he was being a "asshole."  In response, the police officer slammed her to the pavement, face first, while his partner watched.

Our Client, Michelle Jordan After Being Assaulted by the LAPD

In their report, the cops claimed that Ms. Jordan had been resisting arrest, and tried to bite them. Unbeknownst to the cops, however, the entire incident was captured on video by a security camera on a nearby building.

In any case, the most important thing a lawyer must do after being hired is gather evidence IMMEDIATELY.   Witnesses disappear, memories fade, accident scenes are altered, and potentially crucial proof for your case evaporates.  Ms. Jordan hired us the day after the incident.  That same day, we went out to the Del Taco parking lot in Tujunga where the events took place.  We spoke to the manager of the Del Taco and (with a little luck and charm) got him to show us the security footage from the day before.  Sure enough, we found security video that showed the whole thing.  There was no evidence that Ms. Jordan ever made an aggressive move toward the officers.  We obtained a copy of the security video.  Without this video, it would have been almost impossible to prove our case.  The video created a media firestorm, and my partner, Sy Nazif, appeared on several news outlets to talk about the police brutality.  A copy of the video footage is below:

We filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging assault and battery, excessive force, and civil rights violations, among other things.  Predictably, the Los Angeles City attorney removed the case to Federal Court, which is traditionally more favorable to defendants in these types of cases.  (Because we alleged civil rights violations under Federal law, the City had the option to move our case to Federal court.)  There are several differences between State and Federal court, but one of most significant is that in Fed Court you don't win unless you have a unanimous jury.  In state court, you only need a jury vote of 9-3 or better.

A central issue in our case was whether the police officers involved in the assault had any prior excessive force incidents or other red flags of inappropriate behavior.  The City refused to produce the employee files of the police officers, and also refused to produce its internal affairs documents regarding the incident.  We filed a motion to compel the City to produce the documents, and our judge ordered the City to produce its files.  The City's documents contained numerous admissions regarding the incident, and also showed that one of the police officers had a prior disciplinary action.

We also obtained numerous documents from the City showing that LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck had been apprised of the excessive force incident and had weighed in on the internal affairs investigation.  Accordingly, we noticed Chief Beck's deposition.  The City refused to produce Chief Beck, claiming that, as a high ranking government official, he did not have to appear.  We went into Court and once again, the judge ruled in our favor.  The Court ordered Chief Beck to appear for deposition.  The City attorney was shocked that we had won our motion and suddenly began asking about settlement.  I guess we pushed the right buttons.  Our client agreed to accept $550,000 to settle the case.

From a personal standpoint, I would have really liked to try the case.  The City's offer of $550,000 was reasonable, however, and our client didn't want to through the stress and uncertainty of a trial.  Further, the police officer who had assaulted her was fired from the LAPD. Our client was satisfied and wanted to move on with her life.  I completely understood and respected her decision.

The story made numerous headlines. Links to some of the articles are below:

KPCC: Marcereau and Nazif force the LAPD to Pay $550,000 for Police Excessive Force.

LA Daily News: Rob Marcereau Obtains $550,000 For Victim of Police Brutality.

MyNews LA: Attorney Rob Marcereau Forces the LAPD to Pay $550,000 To Excessive Force Victim.

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For more information, please contact us at Marcereau & Nazif.

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