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Case Style: Anthony Morales vs. County of Ventura, Tonya Herbst
Case Number: 01-04121 PJW
Judge: Patrick J. Walsh
Court: United States District Court, Central District of California
Peter M. Williamson of Williamson & Associates, Marina del Rey, California
John Burton of the Law Offices of John Burton, Pasadena, California
Civil Rights - Police Shooting. Plaintiff was attending a family wedding when his son, a former combat veteran in Somalia, became drunk and got into an altercation with security guards at the wedding. The son went home and put on his Army dress jacket and armed himself with a semi-automatic pistol and returned to the wedding. Plaintiff, a former police officer, disarmed his son by taking the pistol away from him but in the process the pistol accidently discharged.
Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs arrived at the scene. Defendant Herbst, an inexperienced deputy with less than 4 months of patrol expereince, walked within 5 feet of the plaintiff and his son. Plaintiff saw her and yelled out that he had possession of the pistol, that everything was under control and not to shoot. Plaintiff then slid the gun towards her. Plaintiff was then shot in the back by defendant Herbst.
Plaintiff claimed defendant violated his 4th Amendment rights by using excessive force against him because he had disarmed his son and taken control of the situation.
Defendant Herbst claimed that plaintiff's son was holding the pistol and pointed at her. Fearing for her life, she aimed at and shot at the son but after she fired, plaintiff moved into path of bullet and got shot accidentally.
Plaintiff claimed permanent nerve injury in back, total disablility and inability to work. Defendants contested nature and extent of injury as well as plaintiff's claim that he could not work.
Outcome: Plaintiff's verdict for $2,100,000.00. Jury hung on punitive damages. Vote was 5-2 in favor of plaintiff.
Plaintiff's Experts: Dr. Roger Bertoldi, Los Angeles, California - neurologist
Dr. Ramon Gomez, Santa Paula, California - family practice
Lt. Roger Clark (retired), Rexburg, Idaho - police practices
Defendant's Experts: Dr. Cynthia Chabay, Bevery Hills, California - neurologist
Comments: Reported by Peter M. Williamson, Esq.