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  • Defamation Lawsuit for False Complaint.

    This will be a different one, (I think) but figured I'd ask fellow officers. Curious if anybody has any knowledge of anybody within their department (Or anything in the news) ever filing a civil case against a civilian for knowingly making up a false complaint to the officer's department, resulting in an internal investigation. Doesn't seem to be something I hear about a lot, but you'd think somebody going to a person's employer and alleging that they broke the law when they didn't would make a decent civil case.
    Last edited by Matt N; 04-21-2018, 01:11 AM.

  • #2
    Good luck with that. A “defamation” or “libel” case has two parts. First part is that you need to prove that the false statements/claims were made. Second part is proving damages. If you cannot prove that you had any damages, then you will prevail on the merits of the case but you’ll be lucky to walk away with your legal fees covered.

    More or less a waste of time to pursue in our line of work.

    I have a friend who is a county police officer. He made a legitimate arrest of a suspect for drug possession. The case was adjudicated and the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison. (I know, light sentence for possession with intent to distribute, but not my doing). In any case, after release from prison, the individual went on social media, posted flyers, etc. stating that my friend had sexually assaulted him while in custody. Up until that point, no police report, no squaking to prison guards, nor even any fellow inmates, etc. My friend was up for promotion to sergeant. The promotion board passed him over, citing the controversy surrounding the unfounded allegations. The selection board thought that “it wouldn’t look right” for him to be promoted when the other candidate was pretty much equal to him, minus the allegations.

    My friend spoke with several attorneys contemplating suing the individual. Eventually, he decided not to due to the complexity of the case, and the fact that the individual would probably be unable to pay a sizeable judgement, much less the attorney fees.

    After a year or so, my friend moved to a different agency, where he’s now a Captain and much happier than he was at his previous department.

    My whole point is that there are many things to consider when deciding if you are going to pursue a “defamation” or “libel” case. Either case will be an uphill battle, and unless you’re sure the defendant can pay any judgement that’s rendered, you’ll be spinning your wheels.

    Hope you find resolution to your case. Good luck!
    Getting shot hurts! Don't under estimate the power of live ammo. A .22LR can kill you! I personally feel that it's best to avoid being shot by any caliber. Your vest may stop the bullet, but you'll still get a nice bruise or other injury to remember the experience.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by HI629 View Post
      Good luck with that. A “defamation” or “libel” case has two parts. First part is that you need to prove that the false statements/claims were made. Second part is proving damages. If you cannot prove that you had any damages, then you will prevail on the merits of the case but you’ll be lucky to walk away with your legal fees covered.

      More or less a waste of time to pursue in our line of work.

      I have a friend who is a county police officer. He made a legitimate arrest of a suspect for drug possession. The case was adjudicated and the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison. (I know, light sentence for possession with intent to distribute, but not my doing). In any case, after release from prison, the individual went on social media, posted flyers, etc. stating that my friend had sexually assaulted him while in custody. Up until that point, no police report, no squaking to prison guards, nor even any fellow inmates, etc. My friend was up for promotion to sergeant. The promotion board passed him over, citing the controversy surrounding the unfounded allegations. The selection board thought that “it wouldn’t look right” for him to be promoted when the other candidate was pretty much equal to him, minus the allegations.

      My friend spoke with several attorneys contemplating suing the individual. Eventually, he decided not to due to the complexity of the case, and the fact that the individual would probably be unable to pay a sizeable judgement, much less the attorney fees.

      After a year or so, my friend moved to a different agency, where he’s now a Captain and much happier than he was at his previous department.

      My whole point is that there are many things to consider when deciding if you are going to pursue a “defamation” or “libel” case. Either case will be an uphill battle, and unless you’re sure the defendant can pay any judgement that’s rendered, you’ll be spinning your wheels.

      Hope you find resolution to your case. Good luck!
      HI629 pretty much says it all

      The bottom line is sure you can sue. ANYBODY can sue anyone anytime. Winning that lawsuit is another story.............and recovering any damages is even harder. I have no doubt you COULD find an attorney who would take the case..........BUT I highly doubt you would find one to do so on a contingent basis

      Look at the Goldman's and the OJ lawsuit. They won big bucks but can't recover anything. Can you imagine the cost of that lawsuit.......guess who had to pay..THE GOLDMAN'S

      One of my former co-workers sued an inmate who assaulted & injured him. I don't remember the cost of the suit but my friend paid the attorney (probably a couple thousand dollars) and won the suit. Since the inmate was still in prison my friend got restitution deducted from his prison earnings as long as the inmate was incarcerated. (about $2 a month). As soon as the inmate was released from prison the payments stopped

      My friend had no vision that he would win big dollars here, nor did he expect to recover any damages, he was making a point and was able to laugh at the thought the inmate had to pay him out of his meager prison earnings.

      Likewise I worked for 4 yrs in a high stress assignment where inmates played games with the 42 USC 1983 statute .At the time an inmate could file suit for free and quite honestly they used the process as recreation . A vast majority of the suits were blatantly frivolous and dismissed Over the 4 yrs I was sued under that statute around 100 times. I actually went to court TWICE and won both easily. I was lucky that I was defended on all of the charges by the Iowa Attorney General's Office

      My point for all the "war stories" is that for pubic servants... lawsuits are hard for the "regular guy" to win even in overwhelming circumstances and even harder to recover & the costs of the action usually outweighs the benefit

      Good luck

      Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

      My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

      Comment


      • #4
        Appreciate the insight thus far. Much like you said Iowa, it's more a principle thing, but for what it's worth, we're not talking about a section 8 bum who doesn't have a dollar to their name. Can't go into detail until the investigation is closed, but to put it simply, the "Accuser" is a student at one of the more top dollar colleges in the country and made sure to let us know her, "Daddy is a lawyer, mommy is a doctor" story while we were arresting her.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Matt N View Post
          Appreciate the insight thus far. Much like you said Iowa, it's more a principle thing, but for what it's worth, we're not talking about a section 8 bum who doesn't have a dollar to their name. Can't go into detail until the investigation is closed, but to put it simply, the "Accuser" is a student at one of the more top dollar colleges in the country and made sure to let us know her, "Daddy is a lawyer, mommy is a doctor" story while we were arresting her.
          Well, the other thing to consider is that most lawsuits are settled out of court.

          If you have a fairly strong case against this young lady then chances are that just a letter from an attorney advising her that you intend to file suit might be enough. Especially if her parents are a lawyer and doctor who have a reputation to lose...and even more so if she intends to get hired anywhere after graduating from her top dollar college. Paying you off, so to speak, might be preferable to them over having their "good name" dragged through the mud (like they did with yours).

          So based on the little information you're able to provide here (understandably)...I'd suggest you at least have a free consultation with an attorney to get their take on things. Good luck!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by not.in.MY.town View Post

            So based on the little information you're able to provide here (understandably)...I'd suggest you at least have a free consultation with an attorney to get their take on things. Good luck!
            yep
            Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

            My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

            Comment


            • #7
              I’m SURE your notes or report included ALL of those statements, intent to intimidate, etc...right? Then you followed up with your Supervisor to inform them of a possible issue, correct?
              Now go home and get your shine box!

              Comment


              • #8
                California has a law mandating that people who makes complaints against the police be advised that they can be prosecuted and sued if they intentionally make a false complaint. At the same time, California courts routinely throw out such prosecutions and lawsuits as they have a "chilling effect" on those people who would make legitimate complaints.

                One of my officers found out the hard way when he sued someone who made a blatantly false complaint against him. The matter went all the way to the court of appeals who tossed the case out, not because it was without merit, but based on the chilling effect doctrine. It took my officer years to pay off the other guy's attorney's fees. .
                Going too far is half the pleasure of not getting anywhere

                Comment


                • #9
                  I saw Judge Judy award $5K in damages to Ca. P/O's on her show.....twice.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Those were pre-decided TV settlements though...
                    Now go home and get your shine box!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Appreciate all the feedback from you guys. Probably wont bother pursuing it. Even though the claim was complete BS, the proof of damages that HI629 pointed out is pretty much non-existent.

                      For those (If any) who were curious, now that it's been closed, (Exonerated) myself and another officer were working off duty at a bar. (Full uniform) Drunken college student (Minority) allegedly slapped another patron (White) after being trying to sit in a booth that was already taken. Victim's girlfriend then gets into it with the girl who slapped her boyfriend. We asked both to leave. The minority student complained that we were being unfair and were only doing this because she was black, that we only arrested black people, etc.

                      We spent about 10 minutes trying to ask her to leave. On a regular call, I would've arrested her within the first minute of her refusing to leave. We're more lenient at the bar because it's bad business for them if we arrest every single drunk that's belligerent, plus we're too busy breaking up fights to do paperwork. After the officer with me tried leading her out of the bar by the arm she yanked away. Eventually we got her to the doorway, at which point she told the other officer she would slap the **** out of him.

                      Once in the doorway she refused to get out of the doorway and was demanding the other officer's name, despite being given it multiple times. Finally I pushed her out of the doorway at which point she pushed back at me and one of the bouncers. When I came out the doorway she decided to drop the "Daddy's a lawyer, Mommy's a doctor" line, which was the final straw that earned her a free ride to the county hotel.

                      Her complaint was that we were extremely rude to her and arrested her based on her race. She also claimed the other officer assaulted her. It's all on video. When I was told about the complaint by our IA investigator I laughed and told him if it was a regular patrol shift call she wouldn't have been given the ridiculous amount of chances to leave on her own accord, and told him we practically did everything but beg not to make us arrest her.

                      It's exonerated, but it's more the principle of the matter. Not my first IA, wont be my last, but the BS complaints that get entertained get old after awhile. And no doubt if I ever get involved in a shooting, the fact that all my IA's have been proven BS wont matter, all everybody will see is, "Accused of racial profiling".

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Matt N View Post
                        Appreciate all the feedback from you guys. Probably wont bother pursuing it. Even though the claim was complete BS, the proof of damages that HI629 pointed out is pretty much non-existent.

                        For those (If any) who were curious, now that it's been closed, (Exonerated) myself and another officer were working off duty at a bar. (Full uniform) Drunken college student (Minority) allegedly slapped another patron (White) after being trying to sit in a booth that was already taken. Victim's girlfriend then gets into it with the girl who slapped her boyfriend. We asked both to leave. The minority student complained that we were being unfair and were only doing this because she was black, that we only arrested black people, etc.

                        We spent about 10 minutes trying to ask her to leave. On a regular call, I would've arrested her within the first minute of her refusing to leave. We're more lenient at the bar because it's bad business for them if we arrest every single drunk that's belligerent, plus we're too busy breaking up fights to do paperwork. After the officer with me tried leading her out of the bar by the arm she yanked away. Eventually we got her to the doorway, at which point she told the other officer she would slap the **** out of him.

                        Once in the doorway she refused to get out of the doorway and was demanding the other officer's name, despite being given it multiple times. Finally I pushed her out of the doorway at which point she pushed back at me and one of the bouncers. When I came out the doorway she decided to drop the "Daddy's a lawyer, Mommy's a doctor" line, which was the final straw that earned her a free ride to the county hotel.

                        Her complaint was that we were extremely rude to her and arrested her based on her race. She also claimed the other officer assaulted her. It's all on video. When I was told about the complaint by our IA investigator I laughed and told him if it was a regular patrol shift call she wouldn't have been given the ridiculous amount of chances to leave on her own accord, and told him we practically did everything but beg not to make us arrest her.

                        It's exonerated, but it's more the principle of the matter. Not my first IA, wont be my last, but the BS complaints that get entertained get old after awhile. And no doubt if I ever get involved in a shooting, the fact that all my IA's have been proven BS wont matter, all everybody will see is, "Accused of racial profiling".
                        It makes you wonder if working off duty gigs are worth the $$$

                        Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

                        My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Honestly, this sounds like typical Friday night fare...followed by a typical complaint from an unhappy customer.

                          IMO, it doesn't even remotely rise to the level of defamation or false reporting. "Extremely rude" is a subjective term...and the "racial profiling" allegation is too general. If she had falsely accused you of using racial slurs, that might be a different story.

                          Like you said, it wasn't your first and it won't be your last complaint/IA investigation. Don't sweat the small stuff.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I had a complaint once where a suspect accused me of harrasement and much more. In the same complaint the suspect admitted to being a party to the crime under investigation.

                            I showed it to the judge and got warrants on all of them. That was the first time a complaint had been helpful.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              People making BS complaints against officers used to be a huge deal. Even when there was no evidence of any wrongdoing...there always was the lingering question if "maybe" there was some truth to the claim. Thanks to body cams it's so much easier to completely clear an officer now. You'd think people wouldn't make blatantly false accusations when they know they're being recorded...but nope.

                              Comment

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