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$12,500 Settlement in Oregon Unlawful Search and Seizure Lawsuit

by Christopher Zoukis

An Oregon man and woman who claimed that Portland police violated their civil rights by unlawfully searching their home have settled a federal lawsuit for $12,500, plus attorney's fees.

Sarah Hill and Brent Lopez had an argument late in the evening on August 17, 2011. Their neighbor called 911 to report a disturbance. When officers arrived, they heard muffled talking from the apartment, which ceased when they knocked on the door. No one answered the knock.

Officers, including Sergeant David Michaelson, then tried to peek in the patio door of the apartment from the neighbor's patio. Through a small gap in the shades, which had been pulled shut, the officers could make out the head of a person sleeping on a mattress.

Forty minutes later, the officers decided to enter the apartment through the unlocked front door. Hill and Lopez were sleeping in a dark room when the officers shone their flashlights on them and ordered them to stand up. Lopez told the officers to get out of his bedroom, but they did not comply. Instead, they pulled Hill, who was wearing nothing but a tank top and underwear, out of the bed, while they struggled with Lopez. Officers ultimately Tasered Lopez twice, and arrested him for resisting, harassment and interfering with a peace officer.

Lopez was acquitted of all charges at trial. Hill and Lopez then sued Michaelson, Officer Matthew Wells, and the Portland Police Department for civil rights violations, unlawful search and seizure, and emotional distress. They demanded $35,000 each, plus $440 in medical expenses and attorney's fees. On July 31, 2013, the three defendants made an offer of judgment of $12,500 plus attorney's fees, which Hill and Lopez accepted. The attorney's fees were expected to be in the ballpark of $11,000.

Case: Hill v. Michaelson, et al., United States District Court for the District of Oregon, Case No. 3:13-cv-00429-SI (July 31, 2013).


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Related legal case

Hill v. Michaelson



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