April 14, 2024


Advocacy. Mediation. Success.


On May nine, 2019, the Eleventh Circuit Courtroom of Appeals decided Piazza v. Jefferson County et al.[i], in which the court examined irrespective of whether a deputy applied abnormal force versus a pre-trial detainee in the jail, and if so, irrespective of whether the deputy’s supervisors were being also liable.  The appropriate specifics of Piazza, taken instantly from the situation, are as follows:

Ricky Hinkle, who suffered from alcoholism, heart disorder, and despair, was arrested though “visibly intoxicated” and was taken to the Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer, Alabama.1 The future day, he was transferred to the Birmingham City Jail. Before long thereafter, he commenced suffering from alcohol-withdrawal symptoms and exhibiting delusional behavior. Jail officers moved Hinkle a few diverse occasions prior to eventually (and presumably because of to his deteriorating situation) inserting him in a cell on Amount 3, the place Deputies Habimana Dukuzumuremyi and Christopher Cotten were being working.

Shortly right after Hinkle arrived on Amount 3, Dukuzumuremyi recognized that he couldn’t see him on the video clip keep track of, so he known as to him over the loudspeaker. When Hinkle didn’t reply, Cotten went to investigate and observed Hinkle in the corner of his cell, donning only underpants and shoes. When Cotten asked Hinkle why he was in the corner, Hinkle responded that he “wanted to die.” At this, Cotten decided to transfer Hinkle to a padded cell. He walked Hinkle towards the cell and asked him to eliminate his shoes. Hinkle initially obeyed but then ran down the hallway to the bathroom and grabbed a shower curtain. Cotten took the shower curtain away from Hinkle soon prior to Dukuzumuremyi arrived on the scene.

Soon after the officers attempted a few occasions to pull Hinkle into his new cell, Dukuzumuremyi fired his taser, hitting Hinkle on the left facet of his chest just previously mentioned his heart. As a outcome of that taser shock—which lasted 5 seconds—Hinkle fell to the floor on his suitable facet and urinated on himself. Dukuzumuremyi then ordered Hinkle to roll over to be handcuffed, but Hinkle remained unresponsive. 8 seconds right after the conclude of the very first shock, and though Hinkle however lay motionless (and moist) on the ground, Dukuzumuremyi tased him once more, this time on the front left facet of his neck. Shortly right after the second shock, Hinkle went into cardiac arrest. He was taken to the unexpected emergency place, the place he was pronounced lifeless.[ii]

Piazza submitted fit on behalf of Hinkle’s estate versus the deputies, the deputy’s supervisor and the sheriff he alleged abnormal force promises versus the deputies and supervisor legal responsibility promises versus the supervisor and the sheriff.  The District Courtroom granted immunity for Deputy Cotton (the deputy that did not fire the Taser) but denied capable immunity for Deputy Dukuzumuremyi, the supervisor and the sheriff they subsequently appealed the denial of capable immunity to the Eleventh Circuit Courtroom of Appeals.

At the outset, it is critical to notice that when an officer is sued for constitutional violations, he or she is entitled to capable immunity if the officer was engaged in a discretionary purpose.  A discretionary purpose is just one that involves an officer to make a final decision from a range of selections, these kinds of as when applying force on man or woman.  In purchase to defeat capable immunity, a plaintiff must demonstrate (1) the officer violated a federally guarded suitable, and (two) the suitable was evidently recognized these kinds of that a sensible officer would have regarded the perform was unlawful.

The Eleventh Circuit then set out to identify if Deputy Dukuzumuremyi violated Hinkle’s suitable to be absolutely free from abnormal force.

Initially, the court noted that abnormal force promises relating to pre-trial detainees are evaluated less than the Fourteenth Modification, relatively the Fourth Modification.  The Supreme Courtroom, in Kingsley v. Hendrickson[iii], clarified how to use this authorized conventional in abnormal force allegations involving pre-trial detainees.  This situation held that

[A] pretrial detainee increasing a Fourteenth Modification claim needn’t show an officer’s subjective intent to hurt but as a substitute need to have demonstrate only that “the force purposely or knowingly applied versus him was objectively unreasonable.” Kingsley, one hundred thirty five S. Ct. at 2473.[iv] [emphasis extra]

In inspecting the application of Kingsley to subsequent scenarios the Eleventh Circuit mentioned

Soon after Kingsley, then, if force applied versus a pretrial detainee is much more serious than is important to subdue him or if not attain a permissible governmental objective, it constitutes “punishment” and is hence unconstitutional. Notably, inasmuch as it entails an inquiry into the objective reasonableness of the officers’ actions, the Fourteenth Modification conventional has occur to resemble the exam that governs abnormal-force promises introduced by arrestees less than the Fourth Modification.[v] [emphasis extra]

The court then noted that the “need to maintain inner purchase and discipline” and “maintain institutional security” are however “legitimate interests” in inspecting the reasonableness of a use of force in a jail.  Additional, just like less than the Fourth Modification, the court will take into account the point that deputies must make split second conclusions in tense, quickly evolving instances.  The court also mentioned that they will take into account the incident from the point of view of a “reasonable officer on the scene,” just as they do in a Fourth Modification situation.

The Eleventh Circuit then mentioned

How do we know, then, when force is sensible and when it is “excessive in relation to its purpose”? Effectively, as appropriate to this situation, our conclusions make just one point apparent: “Once a prisoner has stopped resisting there is no for a longer time a need to have for force, so the use of force thereafter is disproportionate to the need to have.” Danley v. Allen, 540 F.3d 1298, 1309 (eleventh Cir. 2008) (emphasis extra), abrogated on other grounds by Kingsley, one hundred thirty five S. Ct. 2466. Appropriately, “[w]hen jailers keep on to use substantial force versus a prisoner who has evidently stopped resisting—whether mainly because he has decided to turn out to be compliant, he has been subdued, or he is if not incapacitated—that use of force is abnormal.” Id. (emphasis extra) see also Ort v. White, 813 F.second 318, 327 (eleventh Cir. 1987) (“A [F]ourteenth [A]mendment violation happens . . . the place prison officers keep on to utilize force or other coercive actions right after the requirement for these kinds of coercive action has ceased.”) In other words and phrases, mainly because force in the pretrial detainee context could be defensive or preventative—but hardly ever punitive—the continuing use of force is impermissible when a detainee is complying, has been pressured to comply, or is evidently unable to comply.[vi] [emphasis extra]

Soon after the court examined the authorized conventional, as set forth previously mentioned, they future set out to identify irrespective of whether Deputy Dukuzumuremyi applied unreasonable force, or in other words and phrases, “whether it was abnormal in relation to its reason.”

The court very first observed that, initially, deputies were being hoping to set Hinkle in a diverse cell.  He ran and grabbed a shower curtain (not the curtain rod).  Soon after a few unsuccessful attempts to set Hinkle in the cell, Deputy Dukuzumuremyi fired his Taser, which struck Hinkle “just previously mentioned the heart with a 5-second shock.”[vii]  According to the plaintiff’s variation of events (which must be utilized by the court at this phase of the litigation), Hinkle fell to the ground, urinated on himself, and laid motionless.  The deputies gave him commands to roll over and he did not comply.  8 seconds right after the very first shock, Deputy Dukuzumuremyi applied his Taser once more, this time on the facet of his neck.

Both of those sides concur that the very first use of the Taser was sensible and did not constitute abnormal force.  The court mentioned

The functions never dispute that the very first shock was a permissible use of force presented Hinkle’s resistance and the officers’ need to have to “preserve inner purchase and discipline” and “maintain institutional stability.” See Kingsley, one hundred thirty five S. Ct. at 2473.[viii]

The second use of the Taser is the event that the plaintiff alleged was abnormal force.

In its evaluation of the reasonableness of the second use of the Taser, the court noted that the very first use of the Taser induced Hinkle to slide to the floor, urinate on himself, and lay motionless for eight seconds till he was Tased a second time.  The deputy argued that mainly because Hinkle did not roll over as commanded, it was sensible to Tase him the second time.  Having said that, the court mentioned

It appears to us thoroughly unreasonable to be expecting that a male who is lying on the floor immobilized—and incontinent—following a taser shock need to pep up, roll over, and submit to handcuffing within just eight seconds.[ix]

Additional, the deputy argued that his final decision to administer the second shock with the Taser was a “split second decision” that need to be presented deference by the court.  Having said that, the disagreed with that assertion and mentioned

[I]n eight seconds, we believe that, any sensible officer would have concluded that a detainee who lay inert on the floor, owning dirty himself, was no for a longer time placing up a struggle.[x]

The court then held that the second use of the Taser was abnormal force and hence a violation of the Fourteenth Modification.

Due to the fact the court held a constitutional violation experienced occurred, they then moved to the second prong of the exam for capable immunity, notably irrespective of whether the legislation was evidently recognized these kinds of that a further sensible deputy in exact same condition would have know his perform was unlawful, or in other words and phrases irrespective of whether the deputy experienced “fair warning that his perform was unconstitutional.”

The court mentioned

It was much more than ten a long time in the past now that this Courtroom held, in no uncertain terms, that “[w]hen jailers keep on to use substantial force versus a prisoner who has evidently stopped resisting—whether mainly because he has decided to turn out to be compliant, he has been subdued, or he is if not incapacitated—that use of force is abnormal.” Danley, 540 F.3d at 1309 see also id. (“Once a prisoner has stopped resisting there is no for a longer time a need to have for force, so the use of force thereafter is disproportionate to the need to have.”).  And Danley was no innovation for many years our conclusions have embraced and reiterated the theory that an officer could not keep on to use force right after a detainee has evidently stopped resisting. See Skrtich v. Thornton, 280 F.3d 1295, 1303 (eleventh Cir. 2002).[xi]   [emphasis extra]

The court noted that it did not matter that preceding precedent involved employs of diverse weapons these kinds of as pepper spray, relatively than the use of a Taser, mainly because those people scenarios recognized apparent concepts that gave the deputy “fair warning.”  Particularly, the court mentioned

There is “no significant distinction” involving pepper spray to an unresisting detainee’s confront, a kick to his intestine, or a taser to his chest and neck. The very important query is irrespective of whether the legislation gave Dukuzumuremyi “fair warning” that his conduct—tasing an previously-tased, incapacitated, incontinent, and unresisting detainee—violated the Fourteenth Modification. In the mild of our use-of-force precedent, we have no problems concluding that it did.

Appropriately, we hold that Deputy Dukuzumuremyi’s second taser shock violated Hunter’s evidently recognized Fourteenth Modification suitable to be absolutely free from abnormal force…[xii]

As these kinds of, the court held that the legislation was evidently recognized and Deputy Dukuzumuremyi was not entitled to capable immunity.

The court future set out to identify of irrespective of whether Captain Eddings and Sheriff Hale bore supervisory legal responsibility for the deputy’s actions.  The court very first talked about the authorized specifications for supervisor legal responsibility and mentioned

The conventional by which a supervisor can be held liable for the actions of a subordinate is “extremely rigorous.” Cottone, 326 F.3d at 1360. Supervisory officials cannot be held liable less than § 1983 for unconstitutional functions by their subordinates primarily based on respondeat-outstanding or vicarious-legal responsibility concepts. Hartley v. Parnell, 193 F.3d 1263, 1269 (eleventh Cir. 1999). Alternatively, absent allegations of personal participation—of which there are none listed here concerning Hale or Eddings—supervisory legal responsibility is permissible only if there is a “causal connection” involving a supervisor’s actions and the alleged constitutional violation. Cottone, 326 F.3d at 1360.

A person way that a plaintiff can demonstrate the requisite causal connection is by demonstrating that a supervisor’s plan or tailor made resulted in “deliberate indifference to constitutional legal rights.”  Id. at 1360-61. A plaintiff can also demonstrate that the absence of a plan led to a violation of constitutional legal rights. Rivas v. Freeman, 940 F.second 1491, 1495 (eleventh Cir. 1991). Both way, although, to show that a plan or its absence induced a constitutional hurt, a plaintiff must position to numerous incidents, see Rivas, 940 F.second at 1495-96, or numerous experiences of prior misconduct by a particular employee, see Danley, 540 F.3d at 1315. “A one incident of a constitutional violation is inadequate to show a plan or tailor made even when the incident entails several [subordinates].” Craig v. Floyd County, 643 F.3d 1306, 1312 (eleventh Cir. 2011) see also Goebert v. Lee County, 510 F.3d 1312, 1332 (eleventh Cir. 2007)…

Initially, the plaintiff argued that the sheriff failed to carry out satisfactory policies concerning use of force and that this failure resulted in the abnormal force applied versus Hinkle.  Having said that, the court noted that the plaintiff failed to allege any other incidents of abnormal force and only applied Hinkle’s incident as a basis for this claim.  As these kinds of, the claim fails as a matter of legislation.

Second, the plaintiff argued supervisory legal responsibility for deliberate indifference to Hinkle’s critical clinical needs, notably they failed to deal with him for his alcoholism or offer him with his prescription medicine.  Having said that, the court noted that the plaintiff did not position to any other circumstances of delayed clinical treatment.  Additional, the plaintiff did not allege any specifics to show that the captain or sheriff were being on detect relating to any alleged deliberate indifference on the part of deputies at the jail.  The court mentioned

Simply because Hunter’s complaint is made up of only conclusory assertions that jail officers were being indifferent to Hinkle’s needs pursuant to certain policies or customs—without alleging any specifics concerning those people policies or customs—he has not mentioned a claim for supervisory legal responsibility for deliberate indifference to critical clinical needs. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (“[A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]’ devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.’”).[xiii] [emphasis extra]

As these kinds of, the court held that the captain and sheriff were being entitled to capable immunity.



[i] No. 18-10487 (eleventh Cir. Determined May nine, 2019)

[ii] Id. at two-four

[iii] one hundred thirty five S. Ct. 2466 (2015)

[iv] Piazza at 8

[v] Id. at nine

[vi] Id. at 10-eleven

[vii] Id. at twelve

[viii] Id.

[ix] Id.

[x] Id. at 13

[xi] Id. at fifteen-16

[xii] Id. at 18-19

[xiii] Id. at 22

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