The police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sparked worldwide protests and increased scrutiny of the restraint policies in place for law firms all over the country. This event also shed new light on other similar cases of excessive force by the police, such as the death of Mario Matthews in 2019. The man weighed 125 pounds, but a security guard and three Los Angeles police officers restrained him by kneeling down on the suspect’s neck while he was lying prone and by affixing zip-tie restraints to his hands and feet while he was facedown on the floor.
The family of Mario Matthews has filed a wrongful death claim against the city of Los Angeles for the actions of the police officers involved in the arrest and the security guard who helped restrain Matthews. For more than 20 minutes, Matthews was held face down in the Golden 1 Center with as many as four law enforcement officers on top of him at a time. For four minutes, the security guard involved in the arrest knelt on Matthews’ neck to restrain him. Matthews fell unresponsive and was admitted to the hospital for treatment where he never regained consciousness and died two days later.
Understanding Wrongful Death Claims in Sacramento
The case of Mario Matthews is just one example of the many wrongful death claims that have been filed against the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies across the United States. It’s vital to understand what a wrongful death claim is and the civil procedures surrounding these cases. At its core, a wrongful death claim is a personal injury lawsuit filed on behalf of an individual who did not survive their injury. When one party injures another due to negligence or professional misconduct, the party who caused the injury is liable for the injured party’s damages under personal injury law. In a wrongful death claim, a representative of the deceased brings a civil claim against the party responsible for the death in question since they cannot seek legal remediation on their own accord.
While wrongful death claims are similar to personal injury lawsuits in many ways, there are some key differences between these two types of civil cases. First, wrongful death statutes in California outline who has the right to file a wrongful death claim on behalf of a deceased individual. These authorized representatives typically include spouses, children, and close blood relatives. Adopted children may also file wrongful death claims on behalf of a deceased adoptive parent under California law. A Sacramento personal injury attorney is the best resource for anyone expecting to file a wrongful death claim in the near future, or for anyone with specific questions about what might precipitate a wrongful death claim in California.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Government
The police and all forms of law enforcement in the United States are government employees at the local, state, or federal level. As such, many law enforcement agencies have sovereign immunity that protects them from civil liability. However, there are many different situations in which sovereign immunity does not completely insulate a government entity from liability for a victim’s damages.
If a government employee harmed or killed another person while negligently, recklessly, or inappropriately executing their job duties, the victim or the victim’s family may have grounds for a claim against the government. Filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim against any government entity is a delicate and complex process that requires the experienced attention of a reliable Sacramento personal injury attorney. Pursuing such a claim generally entails a very short timeframe in which to build and submit your claim, and a claimant’s potential recovery is likely limited under applicable local, state, or federal laws.
Mario Matthews snuck into an open door of the Golden 1 Center and was shooting baskets on the court when he was pursued and arrested by a security officer who was later joined by the other officers who seemed to contribute to Matthews’ death. While Matthews was indeed trespassing to have some apparently innocent fun shooting baskets on a professional basketball court, this infraction should not have cost him his life, and the wrongful death claim brought by his family seems likely to succeed.
If you ever lose a loved one and believe that police misconduct, excessive force, or negligence from law enforcement caused or contributed to the death, reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney for legal counsel as soon as you can. Contact the Ward Firm today if you need to schedule a consultation about a personal injury or wrongful death that involves the police, and we can tell you how our firm can help.