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Quote of the Day - It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. - Mark Twain
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Where Is The Lesson In $990,000 Award To Hell's Angels?

Sometimes it pays to settle early (which also means the converse is also true:  sometimes it doesn't pay to settle early).  In the case of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club, however, it did.  After losing rounds in the lower courts, the County of Santa Clara appealed to the United States Supreme Court claiming that their sheriffs deputies' actions were immune from liability, but the Court denied certiorari (scroll down to highlighted term), and refused to hear the case.

Overlawyered points out that the City settled for $990,000 to avoid a trial for damages resulting not only from the deputies' actions of shooting and killing several Hell's Angels guard dogs, but also the Fourth Amendment violations of the Hell's Angels rights.  That last link generated a lot of comments, mainly in support of the Hell's Angels.  But is it the dogs who get the sympathy?  Motorcycle gangs have long fought for their rights, and damages awards this size rarely occur when just people are involved. 

According to press reports, the Santa Clara officers had a week in advance to prepare for the raid, and while they knew about the existence of the dogs, they did nothing to prepare for a lesser remedy, such as tranquilizer guns.  On the other hand, officers are trained about the Fourth Amendment from the very inception of their career, yet violations of those constitutional rights rarely evoke these types of awards. 

But the lesson to be learned is not whether people or dogs are involved.  It arises in part, from a realistic evaluation of the potential exposure.

According to CNN, "Officers from the cities of Santa Clara and Gilroy also were involved in the raids, and those cities settled their cases several years ago for a total of less than $50,000, the plaintiffs' lawyer told the Chronicle."  Then again, hindsight is 20/20.

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, February 20, 2006 at 11:50 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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