Fils v. City of Aventura

Fils v. City of Aventura, 2011 WL 3241618 (11th Cir. July 28, 2011) Plaintiffs were a male, who was tased during tense incident outside of club prior to his arrest for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without force and a female, who was knocked unconscious during incident. The plaintiffs filed a complaint against local police officers alleging multiple claims, including excessive force. The officers moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The officers’ taser report indicated he applied a contact tase to the female plaintiff, but her excessive force claim was not based on the tase. Thus, the court should have granted the officer qualified immunity with respect to the female plaintiff. The Eleventh Circuit held that a district court may look at all evidence in record to determine whether issue of material fact exists regarding the plaintiff’s asserted causes of actions, but may not act as a plaintiff’s lawyer and construct party’s theory of liability from facts never alleged, alluded to, or mentioned during the litigation. Likewise, the officer who tackled the female plaintiff to ground after observing her screaming and stepping toward back of another officer, was entitled to qualified immunity where officer could have reasonably believed that plaintiff was about to attack the other officer from behind. With regard to the male plaintiff, the officers fired taser probes into male plaintiff’s chest and applied contact taser to back of his neck. The court properly denied their request for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. The officers’ use of the taser was excessive and law was sufficiently clear to put officers on notice that their conduct violated plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment rights. Under facts viewed in light most favorable to male plaintiff, officers’ use of taser was excessive where crime for which plaintiff was arrested was not serious, plaintiff clearly did not present threat to officer safety or to safety of anyone else, and plaintiff was not resisting arrest or attempting to escape. The use of unprovoked force against non-hostile and non-violent suspect who has not disobeyed instructions violates suspect’s rights under Fourth Amendment.