Injury to Arrestee’s Head and Ear Results in Denial of Summary Judgment to Officer on Excessive Force Claim

In Pittman v. Incorporated Village of Hempstead, the Eastern District of New York held that plaintiff’s excessive force claim survived summary judgment.

The “Fourth Amendment protects individuals from the government’s use of excessive force when detaining or arresting individuals. … A police officer’s use of force is excessive in violation of the Fourth Amendment[] if it is objectively unreasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting [him], without regard to [his] underlying intent or motivation.”

The court held that there was a genuine issue of fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment in favor of Defendant Officer Holley on plaintiff’s excessive force claim:

The evidence before the Court indicates that the Plaintiff suffered a minor injury to the left side of his head and ear while in the custody of the Defendant Holley and other Village police officers. However, the parties dispute how this injury occurred. On the one hand, the Defendants contend that the injury was self-inflicted by the Plaintiff himself, as Holley claims the Plaintiff repeatedly banged his head against the plexi-glass divider in the police vehicle while he was being transferred. On the other hand, the Plaintiff claims that Holley struck him on the side of the head and pushed him to the ground when the Plaintiff was in the basement area of the Villages Police Headquarters. The Plaintiff emphasizes that at the time of the alleged incident, he was handcuffed and shackled and he was unarmed.

Viewing the evidence, in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, as the non-moving party, the Court finds that a genuine issues of fact remain so as to preclude summary judgment in favor of the Defendant Holley. Indeed, assuming that the Plaintiff’s version of events is true, it appears to the Court that there would be no need for the Holley to have either struck the Plaintiff in the head or to shove him if he was already in police custody and restrained.

The court granted summary judgment to defendant Holley on plaintiff’s false arrest claim, finding that Holley had probable cause to arrest plaintiff.

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