A settlement was recently reached between the city of Hayward, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), and the family of James Greer in a wrongful death case. The suit alleged that Greer was improperly restrained until he was no longer conscious. Under the agreement, the city of Hayward will pay $995,000 and BART will pay $75,000 to the victim's family. Greer's family said that he went to purchase a lottery ticket in May 2014 and was pulled over in-route for suspicion of operating under the influence. Police camera footage recorded the majority of the incident, which began by the officers administering a field sobriety test. During the test, Greer was asked if he had any medical conditions, and he stated that he had an abdominal hernia. Tensions rose as Greer became angered and officers wrestled him to the ground to subdue him.
Four city officers and one BART officer applied a full-body restraint to Greer. Shortly after, they noticed that he appeared to be unconscious. Seven minutes passed before medical treatment was administered, which Greer's family felt was grossly improper. Alameda County conducted an autopsy that determined Greer had died from acute phencyclidine (PCP) intoxication coupled with great exertion. Experts conducted an investigation by reviewing police reports, executing discovery, and examining relevant manuals, procedures and laws and concluded the following:
- Officers applied significant pressure to Greer's upper body
- Officers forcefully stepped on his head which was on the pavement
- The application of pressure to Greer could cause asphyxia considering his size, weight and abdomen problems
- There was a failure to react to Greer's difficulty breathing
The defendants moved for summary judgment, suggesting the case lacked genuine material fact based on several issues:
- The level of force used was reasonable
- Their right to qualified governmental immunity
- There was no deliberate indifference toward Greer's medical status
- A lack of proximate cause between their actions and the death
The doctrine of immunity protects governmental entities from civil liability as long as their actions do not violate rights outlined in the statutes or constitution. If the facts leave the question of immunity undetermined, the case will proceed to trial and the defendants must then prove that they qualify for immunity.
California Wrongful Death Law
A claim of wrongful death stems from the negligent action of a party leading to someone's death; the survivors of the deceased may bring the matter to court. Actions of wrongful death may be brought by a spouse, domestic partner, child, representative, or other person that is entitled to the estate by intestate succession. The CA statute of limitations in these matters is two years. Plaintiffs may seek recovery for damages including funeral costs, medical expenses, lost future income, loss of moral support and others.
If you have lost a loved one from the careless or negligent actions of another party, you may be eligible for significant financial compensation. The Law Office of Jeremy Rosenthal understands your pain and will seek justice on your behalf. Contact the office today to discuss your case.