Florida residents who intentionally or recklessly injure another by their conduct may be held criminally accountable by the government for their conduct with the filing of assault or criminal battery charges. In addition to this criminal liability, a person guilty of an assault that caused an injury can be held accountable for financial and other damages in civil court. A former middle school student’s lawsuit against a school security officer who allegedly assaulted him on school property has recently been addressed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, where the defendant’s claim of qualified immunity was ultimately rejected.
According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff was a 13-year-old boy at the time of the incident. The plaintiff and his mother were checking in with the office at the plaintiff’s school when the security officer was called to address the plaintiff’s behavior. After speaking with the plaintiff for about 2 minutes, the defendant inexplicably grabbed the plaintiff’s face and tackled him to the ground, causing injuries. After the incident, the defendant was fired from his job at the school and ultimately criminally charged with assault for his behavior.
Aside from the criminal proceedings, the plaintiff pursued a civil assault claim against the defendant in federal court. The plaintiff claimed that the defendant acted illegally under his supposed authority as a school security officer, and had no right to detain him with the force applied. Before trial, the defendant successfully argued to the court that he had “qualified immunity” from the charges. The trial court found that the defendant was working within the scope of his authority as a security officer and that the force used was not excessive. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.