C.B. v. City of Sonora

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 09-12-2013
  • Case #: 11-17454
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Senior District Judge Zilly for the Court; Circuit Judge Watford; Concurrence by Circuit Judge McKeown
  • Full Text Opinion

A jury verdict obtained after re-deliberation and long, unscripted, and potentially misleading or confusion discussions between the district judge and the jurors warrants a new trial.

C.B., a minor, had attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder that caused him to become distracted and at times to run away from school. On September 29, 2008, Coach Sinclair, C.B.’s supervisor, was informed that C.B. was being unresponsive on the playground. After C.B. refused to follow Sinclair back into the building, Sinclair called the police to assist. When they arrived, she warned the police that C.B. was a “runner” and had not taken his medication that day. After unsuccessful attempts at getting C.B. to comply, the police officers decided to handcuff C.B. so that he could not run and cause a danger to himself. At the request of C.B.’s uncle, one of the officers placed C.B. in the police car and took him to his uncle’s business. At trial, the jury completed a general verdict form, but it contained inconsistencies regarding C.B.’s emotional distress claim. The jury returned a verdict for C.B., but it awarded damages after finding an “affirmative defense of privilege” on the part of the police officers. After extensive unscripted discussion between the district judge and the jury regarding re-deliberation, the jury returned a verdict opposite their original. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the discussion with the district judge, taken together with the problematic form, gave the jury the misimpression that its form answers were inconsistent and needed revision. Since this amounted to “a message to jurors that they got it wrong the first time,” the panel granted a new trial. Further, the panel held that the police officers were entitled to qualified immunity for C.B.’s claim of unlawful custody as there was no “clearly established” law informing the officers that their action was not lawful. VACATED, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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