Chaudhry v. City of Los Angeles

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 05-19-2014
  • Case #: 11-55820; 11-55906; 11-55907
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Smith and Watford
  • Full Text Opinion

California's survival statute does not apply to claims where the death of the decedent was caused by a violation of federal law.

On the night of March 25, 2008, Mohammad Usman Chaudhry was killed during an altercation with the Los Angeles Police Department. Chaudhry, a 21-year-old Muslim man with autism had wandered from his home and was sleeping in front of a building when officers found him. After approaching Chaudhry, the confrontation escalated and resulted in Chaudhry being shot four times in the abdomen. Chaudhry died at the scene. Due to inconsistencies in Chaudhry's records, his family was not notified of his death until 21 days after the incident, which prevented the family from burying Chaudhry in accordance with their religious preferences. The Chaudhry family brought a claim under §1983 for unreasonable seizure and excessive force under the Fourth Amendment. The jury found for the family on this claim and awarded the family $1,000,000 for pain and suffering. However, California’s survival statute does not allow for a decedent’s estate to recover for pre-death pain and suffering. Therefore, the district court found that California’s survival statute is consistent with §1983 and struck down the jury’s $1,000,000 verdict as excessive. The Ninth Circuit began its analysis of the §1983 claim by explaining that the congressional intent behind the act was to provide a remedy for unconstitutional killings by the state government. The panel determined that the California survival statute’s failure to provide damages for pre-death pain and suffering was inconsistent with the deterrent purposes of §1983. The panel held that the California survival statute does not apply to claims where the death of the decedent was caused by a violation of federal law. Whether the $1,000,000 award was excessive is a question for the jury to be determined on remand. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, and REMANDED.

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