Metro Verdicts Monthly looks at median settlements and verdicts in all civil rights cases in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia since 1987. (This data is a bit older but I think it is still accurate.) The median civil rights award in Maryland is $90,000. The median in Washington DC is $100,000. Incredibly, and I have no explanation for this, the median in Virginia is $200,000, over 100% greater than the civil rights verdicts and settlement in Maryland.
We know for sure that post-George Floyd, we will see a lot more of these. Because juries will be more inclined to believe the victim. The world is changing. Not fast enough. But it is changing.
The following is a sampling of verdicts and settlements that involve the violation of civil rights:
- 2022, Michigan $80,000 Verdict. the plaintiffs reportedly suffered emotional distress due to a violation of their Fourth Amendment and Due Process civil rights, when police officers employed by the defendant City of Detroit executed a search warrant on their home when the warrant was issued for the duplex next door. The police failed to read the warrant, busted open the door, hand cuffed the entire family, and held them at gunpoint for 10 minutes. $80,000 seems very low considering the circumstances, although the case went to trial in federal court which means the jury was drawn from the entire state rather then the Detroit area.
- $2021, Illinois $162,000 Settlement. the plaintiff claimed that his civil rights were violated when he was arrested and charged with unlawful use or possession of a weapon, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number by defendant Chicago police officers. The plaintiff maintained that the defendants did not observe him engaging in any illegal activity, did not have probable cause to arrest him, and falsely claimed that he was concealing an object in his waistband when they approached him on the street.
- 2020, California $1,025,000 Verdict. On Aug. 16, 2017, 34-year-old decedent Kenneth Lewis Jr. was fatally shot in Los Angeles by defendant Ryan Rothrock, a sheriff’s deputy employed by defendant County of Los Angeles, after reportedly being detained and arrested by defendant Rothrock and other deputies employed by defendant County. After the shooting, the deputies reportedly detained and arrested decedent’s father, plaintiff Kenneth Lewis Sr., before releasing him several hours later. Plaintiffs alleged defendants detained decedent and his father without reasonable suspicion and arrested them without probable cause. They alleged the use of deadly force against decedent was excessive and unreasonable because he was unarmed and posed no immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to anyone at the time of the shooting; plaintiffs claimed decedent had fallen and was on the ground with nothing in his hands when he was shot
- 2019, Texas: $321,000 Settlement. A long-time United Airlines flight attendant alleged that one of its pilots posted sexually explicit photographs on various social media sites without her consent. She suffered emotional distress and humiliation. The flight attendant and pilot were in a consensual relationship for four years. The pilot took photos both with and without her knowing or consenting. He posted these photos on social media with phrases that implied double entendres. A male co-worker told the woman about her ex-boyfriend’s posting of these photos. She felt embarrassed and humiliated as a result. The woman experienced emotional distress and stress in her work environment. She sought United Airlines’ assistance in reprimanding him, but they failed to stop their pilot’s sexual harassment. The woman filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who investigated and determined that the airline’s conduct violated federal civil rights statutes. After the conciliatory efforts to resolve this matter failed, the EEOC sued United Airlines for violating the Civil Rights Act. United Airlines denied wrongdoing, claiming they were not responsible for the pilot’s actions. The case eventually settled for $321,000, which was to be the woman. There was also a consent order that required the airline to notify employees of their protections under federal civil rights laws.
- 2019, California: $96,000 Verdict. A helicopter technician suffered a concussion, emotional distress, and violation of his civil rights. This occurred after two sheriff deputies, who were employed by the County of Los Angeles, drew weapons in his backyard, handcuffed him, kneed him in the head. The officers were in pursuit of a robbery suspect who just ran through the man’s property. The man contended that the deputies knew he was not the suspect when they detained him in his own yard. A jury awarded the man $96,000 in damages.
- 2019, Florida: $334,777 Verdict. A 70-year-old former realtor sued his former employer for age discrimination and retaliation. He claimed that these violated Florida’s Civil Rights Act and the breach of his commission’s contract. The man claimed he received few sales leads, and that many of the leads were distributed to younger realtors. He filed an age discrimination complaint with the state’s Human Relations Commission and was subsequently fired. The man alleged that the realty company withheld sales and fired from him because he filed an age discrimination complaint. He also claimed that he was not paid a commission for two leasing sales he made. The jury ruled in favor of the man and awarded him $334,777.
- 2019, Massachusetts: $888,036 Verdict. A woman sued her former employer, alleging that they terminated her because they could not provide reasonable accommodations for her. She worked there for about 12 years. The woman received a cancer diagnosis and took a medical leave, which was scheduled for three months that became five and a half months. She then provided her employer a doctor’s note, indicating that she could return to work. The company’s owner then told her that they eliminated her position. She alleged that they knew of her cancer and failed to provide her accommodations under disability laws. The company denied wrongdoing, claiming that they created a new position that they filled with a new employee. A jury ruled in favor of the woman and awarded $888,036 in damages.
- 2019, Oregon: $50,270 Verdict. A man suffered a violation of his civil rights, pepper spray burns to his face, and emotional distress after a confrontation with a Multnomah County sheriff. The sheriff handcuffed, arrested, and confiscated the man’s skateboard as he was waiting for a public commuter train. This occurred at night, during political protests. However, the man claimed that there were no active protests within his surroundings. He claimed that Multnomah County was liable for battery, assault, emotional distress, and false arrest. The county claimed there was probable cause for his arrest and contended that the man ignored requests to leave the area. The jury awarded the man $50,270, comprising $50,000 in pain and suffering and $270 in property damage.
- 2019, Minnesota: $25,000 Settlement. A woman claimed that two police officers violated her civil rights after she called 911 to have a man removed from her apartment. She noted that she had a protective order against him and was holding her baby. The officers arrived at the apartment and found a man with a cheek injury. They arrested, struck, and maced the resisting woman. She alleged claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment, and violations of Minnesota’s Human Rights Act. The woman also contended that they used excessive force and exacerbated the situation. She also alleged that their actions endangered her baby and their conduct constituted sexual harassment. This case settled for $25,000.