Weekly Law Resume - September 15, 2011: Qualified Immunity Does Not Apply Where Officer Mistakenly Pulls Gun Instead of Taser


Maria Torres, et al. v. City of Madera, et al. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (August 22, 2011)

This case is an important progression in stun-gun-related police liability law, establishing how mistaken-draw cases should be judged and whether or not officers who mistakenly draw are entitled to qualified immunity.

On October 27, 2002, Madera City police officers arrested Everado Torres, handcuffed him, and put him in the back of a patrol car. Approximately 30-45 minutes later (after falling asleep), Torres awoke and began yelling and kicking the rear door from the inside. One of the officers on-scene, Marcy Noriega, walked over to the door and opened it, intending to tase Torres in order to prevent him from injuring himself (in case he kicked through the glass window). Upon opening the door Noriega accidentally pulled her gun instead of her Taser and fired one bullet into Torres. He died later that evening.

Torres' family sued in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violation of Torres' Fourth Amendment rights. Upon grant of Defendant's summary judgment motion, the Torres family filed an interlocutory appeal.

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