October 2020 Fourth Circuit Torts and Insurance coverage Instances of Curiosity | Nexsen Pruet, PLLC

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October 2020 Fourth Circuit Torts and Insurance Cases of Interest | Nexsen Pruet, PLLC

Marc Manos of TIPS Council oversees the Fourth Circuit Advance sheets and selects cases that may be of interest to a crime or insurance practitioner.

Below are brief summaries of the cases selected from October 2020

Dean on behalf of Harkness versus McKinney

Case No. 19-1383 (4th Cir. October 2, 2020) (published). GOVERNMENT PROCEDURES / CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION 42 USC § 1983 Willful indifference and negligence under the SC Tort Claims Act and gross negligence in operating a police vehicle. Refusal of summary assessment of qualified immunity confirmed. The Anderson County’s deputy sheriff responded to an incident in Code 3 to help another MP that allowed law enforcement to exceed speed limits and ignore certain traffic rules while the siren and emergency lights are on (there are some exceptions to use of lights and sirens, not applicable to this case). The shift supervisor canceled code three and ordered a “normal run” response in which the officers must obey all traffic rules. The deputy responding switched off the emergency lights and the siren and two minutes later lost control of the vehicle, crossed the center line and hit the plaintiff’s station almost head-on while driving at at least 83 MPH in a speed limit range of 45 MPH, causing severe orthopedic and neurological injuries. In these circumstances, the standard of willful indifference determines whether the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. Sacramento County v Lewis, 523 US 833 (1998). The lifting of the emergency two minutes and fifteen seconds before the collision, the defendant’s confirmation that Code Three was now a non-emergency Code One, and the turning off of the emergency lights and the siren determined that the district court duly duly applied the deliberate standard of indifference chosen instead of harming intent. A reasonable jury might infer from the facts that the accused operated the police vehicle in a dangerous and reckless manner, knowing the risks involved. The facts included that the defendant had received remedial training for previous violations of the vehicle operating guidelines. Therefore, a summary judgment of qualified immunity should have been denied for the breach of due process claims. The need to ruthlessly operate a police vehicle is well founded. The property of the district court also disputed a summary judgment for this reason. Ultimately, the Parratt-Hudson Doctrine only applies to procedural claims where state law provided for remedial action after withdrawal, not to substantial procedural claims like this. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451, US 527 (1981), partially suspended for other reasons, Daniel v. Williams, 474, US 327,330 (1986); Hudson v. Palmer, 468, US 517 (1984).

View the case here.

Martin v. Duffy

Case No. 18-722 (4th Cir. October 13, 2020) (published). GOVERNMENT / CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION / RETALIATION. The prisoner filed a retaliatory lawsuit against prison officials who isolated the prisoner until the investigation into his claim was sexually assaulted by a security guard. The district court found that the prisoner had filed a lawsuit, but gave the prison officer a summary judgment because the prison officers found that without the protected behavior they would have made the same decision for reasons related to a legitimate prison interest. The appeals court ruled in a first impression case in the fourth circuit that the labor law equality test of the mountain. Healthy City School District Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 US 274 (1977) sought retribution to 42 USC § 1983 Prison First Amendment. There is a division of the circuits on this topic. However, the court reversed on the basis of an essential question of fact whether the prison officer would have raced the plaintiff without a motive for retaliation.

View the case here.

John Doe 2 versus The Fairfax County School Board

Case No. 19-1702 (4th Cir. October 21, 2020) (unpublished). GOVERNMENT PLACE / CONSTITUTIONAL VIOLATION / GENDER DISCRIMINATION. Male high school student charged by three female students with inappropriate sexual comment and touch was suspended and then sued for sex discrimination under Title IX and freedom of speech violations under the First Amendment and the Virginia Constitution. Summary judgment for defendants upheld. According to the theory of erroneous results, the plaintiff could not assert himself because his files prevented an essential question of fact regarding his actual innocence. In the context of selective enforcement, the plaintiff did not produce any proven evidence to create a material problem of fact that enlivened the trial through male prejudice. In addition, he received the procedure required for disciplinary action in the school. The school environment grants school officials broader, but not unlimited, power over speaking. Any language that interferes with the work of the school or a vulgar and offensive language that contradicts the basic values ​​of courtesy in the classroom can be disciplined.

View the case here.

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