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Federal Appeals Court Revives Civil Assault Claim Against School Security Officer

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.

On appeal, the appellate panel rejected the trial court’s ruling on the excessive force issue. The court found that the plaintiff was nonviolent, followed all instructions from the defendant, and did not resist the defendant in any meaningful manner. Based on the appellate court’s findings, the panel ruled that a reasonable jury could have found the defendant’s conduct excessive, and the case was remanded to proceed toward a trial on the plaintiff’s claims.

Pursuing a Civil Assault Claim for Excessive Force

Many law enforcement officers and security guards may believe they have a legal right to use excessive force when trying to do their job. Although security guards and police are entitled to use force under some circumstances, excessive force is a recurring problem. Civil cases in Florida based on injuries sustained under excessive force can result in a settlement or a judgment against the defendant. If you or a loved one has suffered an assault at the hands of an authority figure, or anyone else, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The experienced Florida injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman, Frank, and Estrada have successfully represented Florida clients in all types of personal injury cases, including intentional assaults. Call our office at 877-448-8585 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

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