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$6.7 Million to Cali. Mom After Police Broke Her Ankle During Warrantless Entry

by Derek Gilna

A San Jose woman, Danielle Burfine, won a settlement of $6.7 million for a federal civil rights lawsuit from the city of Santa Clara. Police body cam footage shows that on April 12, 2016 cops with the city’s police department, without a warrant, kicked open her locked front door and threw her to the ground, breaking her ankle.  Police were attempting to arrest Burfine’s teenage daughter, who was a suspect in an arson of a snack bar at her high school.

On the body cam video, Burfine is heard telling the cops standing outside her front door, “No you are not allowed to come into my house!” right before they shatter her door along with her ankle in the process.

The 12-minute video then clearly shows Burfine screaming in pain, as she is wrestled to the ground and handcuffed. According to her attorney, Michael Haddad, “This shocking video shows obvious excessive force, wrongful entry without a warrant, and extreme callousness as Danielle broke her ankle and cried in pain.” As a result of her injury, Haddad said, his client now suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, which “is likely to be permanently disabling.”

Santa Clara, faced with the graphic video evidence, had no basis to credibly deny liability, because both the warrantless entry and subsequent arrest were clearly illegal. The cops had initially claimed that they were in pursuit of Burfine’s daughter, which would have justified their forced-entry to effectuate an arrest. However, that turned out to be untrue. The arson took place a full week before the arrest, so there was plenty of time to obtain a warrant, according to Haddad.

He stated, “This is not like they were in hot pursuit of a suspect running from a crime. They were clearly in a zone where they now required a warrant.”

With the police actions clearly improper and those actions directly resulting in Burfine’s injuries, the only remaining issue was the amount of the damage award. City officials obviously had little confidence that the city would prevail at trial, and the prospect of a large jury award clearly unnerved them. Accordingly, the City Council approved the settlement payment to Burfine. After it was announced, attorney Haddad asked, “Now they’ve catastrophically injured an innocent mom. Will they finally fix their training and procedures?” See: Burfine v. City of Santa Clara, 5:16-cv-04228-EJD (Sept. 29, 2017).

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