Monday, December 14, 2015

A $138 Mistake.

King v. California, No. B257676 (D2d1 Nov. 18, 2015)

This is an appeal of a verdict in a civil rights case. A jury awarded damages against some CHP officers it found to have unreasonably searched the plaintiff. Most of the opinion deals with civil rights stuff like the sufficiency of the evidence of unreasonableness under the Fourth Amendment and qualified immunity. The court does, however, address two minor procedural points.

First, it affirms the exclusion of expert testimony from a police policy and practice expert on relevance grounds. The expert offered testimony about CHP policy, but plaintiff didn’t sue the officers for violating policy. He sued them for violating the Fourth Amendment. And since the court didn’t need some expert say what the Fourth Amendment means, the testimony was properly excluded.

The court also affirms a very small—$138—award of economic damages over a claim of inconsistent verdicts. The jury had found no liability on battery, excessive force or similar theories, but it did find the search and seizure were unreasonable. The $138 represented plaintiff’s medical expenses incurred as a result of allegedly being roughed up during the search. The jury was instructed (without objection from defendants) that Plaintiff was entitled to compensation due to any harm incurred by the officers. Based on those instructions, it was not unreasonable or in for the jury to award the expenses as damages, even if it found no liability on claims more commonly associated with compensation for physical injuries. While the court here intimates that the instructions might have been problematic, nobody challenged them. So a denial of a new trial on inconsistency grounds would be upheld because the verdict was entirely consistent with the charge given to the jury.

Affirmed in relevant part.

No comments:

Post a Comment