Excessive force; nominal damages
Where the jury could have concluded that, although an officer used excessive force, any injury to the plaintiff was the result of justifiable force, a nominal damages instruction was properly given on the plaintiff’s excessive force claim.
“In Briggs v. Marshall, 93 F.3d 355, 360 (7th Cir. 1996), we recognized three situations where nominal damages might be appropriate to remedy an excessive force violation: (1) where an arresting officer uses both justifiable and excessive force, but any injury results from the use of justifiable force, (2) where a jury reasonably concludes that evidence of plaintiff’s injury is not credible, or (3) where a plaintiff’s injuries are insufficient to justify with reasonable certainty a more substantial measure of damages. Both (1) and (3) are implicated in this case.”
“Throughout the trial, Frizzell focused on the pain caused by the tasering, but, as the district judge rightly identified, the tasering was not necessarily the basis for the jury’s finding of excessive force. It is possible the jury felt Szabo was justified in his use of the taser, but that the use of pepper spray or jumping on Frizzell’s chest was excessive in light of the tasering. After all, Szabo was faced with a suspect who appeared to be fleeing from a minor traffic violation, had ignored a lit-up cruiser and multiple requests to stop, was heading toward a busy public place, was much larger than he, and had refused to stay down as ordered. Given this situation, the jury could have reasonably concluded that using the taser multiple times was not excessive, but that Szabo’s actions after using it were.”
10-2955 Frizzell v. Szabo
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, McCuskey, J., Evans, J.
7th Circuit Digest, Civil Digest, Civil Rights Digest