San Francisco Partners Gregg Thornton and Danielle Lewis Secure Judgment for City of Benicia Police Officer
Plaintiff was present during a verbal altercation between two groups of individuals outside a local bar. A police officer, on patrol nearby, observed the altercation and intervened, disbursing the two groups. The officer then contacted the individuals in one of the groups. After determining that they were not arrestable, and did not appear to be a danger to themselves or others, the officer left the scene. At this point, the plaintiff, who had retrieved his sister from inside the bar, began walking home. Plaintiff was then violently attacked by the individuals who had been contacted by the officer, sustaining permanent injuries. Plaintiff brought an action in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983, seeking damages for violation of his civil rights.
Selman Breitman filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that (1) the officer was not liable as he did not create any potentially dangerous situation, or affirmatively place the plaintiff in a more dangerous situation; and (2) the officer was qualifiedly immune from suit. The court granted the officer's motion, finding both that the officer had not created any dangerous situation and that the officer had not placed plaintiff in a more dangerous situation than the one in which the officer found plaintiff. Further, the court also found that the officer was shielded from suit because of the qualified immunity arguments raised in the motion for summary judgment. The court further granted summary judgment on this second basis, finding that a reasonable officer could have believed that his actions were not a violation of the plaintiff's civil rights.