Orell v. Muckle
A jury reasonably could find that a police officer's use of a taser constitutes excessive force when used against a plaintiff who is ill and who is not under arrest, suspected of criminal activity, or known to be armed and dangerous. On Feb. 3, 2009, the plaintiff's husband called 911 to report that the plaintiff was experiencing a seizure. Emergency medical technicians observed the plaintiff in bed under a blanket with a spot of red on the pillow that appeared to be blood. The plaintiff's husband allegedly informed the EMTs that the plaintiff had taken pills the previous night, and that he suspected drug abuse. A paramedic requested police assistance, because the plaintiff allegedly cursed and asked that EMTS leave her alone. The defendant police officer arrived and warned the plaintiff that unless she cooperated the defendant officer would use a taser. The defendant police officer used the taser twice, and the plaintiff struck the defendant in the face. The defendant police officer handcuffed the plaintiff, who sued, alleging that the officer used excessive force when the plaintiff required medical assistance. When ruling whether a law enforcement official utilized excessive force, courts may consider the severity of the crime, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to safety of the law enforcement official and others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest. There was a genuine issue of material fact about whether the defendant's use of the taser was reasonable. "[A] reasonable jury," wrote the court, "could conclude that Plaintiff was not actively resisting the medical responders or Defendant prior to Defendant's use of her Taser and that use of the Taser constitutes excessive force." The defendant officer had no reason to suspect that the plaintiff was armed or dangerous. Because the plaintiff was not under arrest, suspected of criminal activity, or known to be armed and dangerous, there was a genuine issue of material fact concerning whether the defendant police officer was required to use the taser. A reasonable jury could find that the use of the taser was unreasonable, and the court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.