by David Reutter
In 2015, a New York jury awarded $25.2 million in a lawsuit alleging a New York police officer’s excessive use of force in a false arrest. An officer using excessive force inflicted a gunshot wound that caused paraplegia. The amount awarded placed it into the top 10 jury verdict awards in the state that year.
Eugene Sims brought a suit against New York police officer Sean O’Brien and the City of New York alleging that O’Brien’s excessive force in executing a false arrest caused him permanent injury. O’Brien shot Sims during the arrest and the bullet severed Sims’ spine, leaving him a paraplegic.
O’Brien admitted that he shot Sims in back while Sims was lying on his chest and O’Brien stood over him. O’Brien argued that he had probable cause to arrest Sims because he had observed Sims participating in actions that “suggested” that he was selling an illegal substance. He contested that the shooting was self-defense where Sims, while lying on his chest, pulled a gun and pointed it backwards at him.
Mr. Sims admitted that he fled the scene, but he insisted that he was not involved in any illegal activity. He also testified that he did not endanger O’Brien’s life because he was not holding a gun when he was being arrested. A witness also testified that Sims was not holding a gun when he was shot.
The jury found that O’Brien’s arrest was a false arrest where he used excessive force. Sims was acquitted on all charges, and the jury awarded him $25.2 million for past and future pain and suffering. An expert orthopedist testified that Sims’ injuries rendered him a paraplegic, and he would require hip and shoulder replacements and other therapy because of degeneration caused by paralysis.
See: Sims v. City of New York, Kings County, 015519, 2010
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