Michael and Evelyn Warren were driving through downtown Brooklyn in June 2007 when they came across an arrest in progress. According to Reuters, the police had chased down a young black man and were in the process of arresting him. They then allegely began to beat him, after they had him in cuffs.
The Warrens got out of their vehicle and asked the officers to stop beating the suspect. They were told to get back into their vehicle. Moments later, the officers noticed the couple taking down license plates. That’s when things got even more violent.
One of the officers allegedly punched Michael Warren multiple times in the face while dragging him out of his vehicle. He also allegedly punched Evelyn Warren in the jaw. The two were arrested. Both were charged with disorderly conduct and Michael was charged with resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration as well.
What the officers didn't know was that both Michael and Evelyn are lawyers. In fact, Evelyn specializes in Civil Rights and Michael defends cops against police brutality charges. Ironic.
Needless to say, the Warrens sued. Among their claims were a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights, plus claims for emotional distress and malicious prosecution.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unlawful search or seizure. Essentially, it alleges that the couple was falsely arrested in bad faith. To pursue a claim under a violation of Fourth Amendment rights theory, one must file a Section 1983 claim in federal court. Both compensatory damages, for medical expenses, lost wages, and things of that ilk, as well as punitive damages are available.
A claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress in New York requires proving that there was extreme and outrageous conduct that was intended to cause severe emotional distress and actually did cause emotional distress.
The court, in Bender v. City of New York, stated that, "the conduct must be so outrageous and extreme as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency ... imprisonment without probable cause and for the sole purpose of confining a citizen to jail for 24 hours can rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress."
Certainly, pulling a couple out of their vehicle, pummeling them, and then arresting them on baseless charges, if that all was able to be proven, would qualify as extreme and outrageous conduct. However, that same case states that someone cannot recover damages for both IIED and constitutional violations if the underlying conduct is the same. It would be an either/or proposition.
Earlier this week, the case finally came to a satisfying conclusion for the Warrens. New York City forked over $360,000 as a settlement, just prior to the scheduled trial date. The Warrens took this as a validation of their claims. The City maintained that nothing had been proven.
- Find a New York Personal Injury Attorney (FindLaw)
- Lawyer couple get $360,000 payout from city over false arrest by NYPD sergeant (New York Daily News)
- 'Stop and Frisk' And Why It Might Be Unconstitutional (FindLaw's New York Criminal Law Blog)
- Section 1983 (FindLaw's LawBrain)