MICHAEL J. RANKIN reports a recent case where the Court granted the Defendant Township’s motion for summary judgment because the Plaintiff failed to produce an expert report in discovery to prove liability against the Township’s police officer who arrested him.
Plaintiff alleged that he was at his home when officers from the Township’s police department arrived in response to a call that there was an altercation between him and his adult son. Plaintiff was arrested, and one of the officers allegedly injured Plaintiff’s right shoulder while handcuffing him, causing a tear in his rotator cuff. Plaintiff alleged that the officer was negligent in the manner he handcuffed him.
The Defendant Township moved for summary judgment arguing Plaintiff’s failure to serve it with a liability expert’s report which precluded him from calling such an expert at trial. Defendant argued that, in the absence of expert testimony concerning how the officer deviated from police practices and procedures, Plaintiff could not prove negligence.
Plaintiff maintained that a jury could determine, without the benefit of expert testimony, that the manner in which the officers handcuffed and pulled Plaintiff from the police car was negligent.
The Court disagreed with Plaintiff and granted Defendant Township’s motion for summary judgment. The Court found that Plaintiff needed an expert to inform the jury about police practices and procedures and how the officers deviated from those standards. The manner whereby a police officer is to handcuff or remove an arrestee from a patrol car is outside the ken of the average juror.
The Court explained that most jurors do not know how an arrestee is to be handcuffed, including the circumstances under which an arrestee’s hands can be positioned in front of him when handcuffed, or the action an officer must take when an arrestee complains handcuffs are causing pain. Also, the Court explained that the variables an officer must consider when removing an arrestee from a car are not common knowledge either.
This case is a reminder on how important it is to consider in each case whether a liability expert is needed, especially when attempting to prove negligence by a Defendant’s deviation of the standards and practices found in a particular profession or trade.
Please contact Michael J. Rankin if you have any questions or need any assistance in connection with this subject.