Allegedly unarmed man shot by officers
|Excessive Force, Civil Rights - 42 USC 1983|
|Robert Contreras v. City of Los Angeles, Julio Benavides, Mario Flores and Does 1-10, Inclusive, No. 2:11-cv-01480-SVW-SH|
|United States District Court, Central District, Los Angeles, CA|
|Stephen V. Wilson
- Dale K. Galipo; Law Offices of Dale K. Galipo; Woodland Hills, CA, for Robert Contreras
- William L. Schmidt; Law Offices of William L. Schmidt; Fresno, CA, for Robert Contreras
- Craig J. Miller; Office of the City Attorney; Los Angeles, CA, for City of Los Angeles, Julio Benavides, Mario Flores
In September 2005, plaintiff Robert Contreras, 19, fled a van with three other men after having exchanged in gunfire with a rival gang.
Officers in South Los Angeles had responded the report of a nearby shooting and chased the van. After a short pursuit, the occupants of the van jumped out and fled in different directions. Subsequently, Contreras was approached in a dead-end alley by Los Angeles Police Officers Mario Flores and Julio Benavides. Contreras was ultimately shot by the officers.
Contreras sued Flores, Benavides and their employer, the city of Los Angeles. He alleged that the officers violated his civil rights in their use of excessive force. The city was later removed from the case.
Contreras claimed the officers chased him and opened fire without warning or provocation, resulting in multiple shots to his foot, side and back. He contended that the force used was excessive because he was unarmed.
Flores and Benavides claimed that Contreras turned toward them with an object in his hand, so they believed he was pointing a gun at them and opened fire. Defense counsel contended that the officers told investigators afterward that they had seen a gun in Contreras' hand as he fled into the dead-end. However, after an extensive search of the area by the department, no weapon was ever found.
Contreras was shot in the foot, back and side. He was immediately hospitalized and required multiple surgeries. Contreras claimed that he will never walk again, but may regain some use of his arms.
Plaintiff's counsel contended that Contreras was a healthy 19 year old prior to the shooting, but that he now requires 24-hour care.
Contreras was sentenced to seven years in a plea deal for his part in the drive-by shooting. He filed this lawsuit after his release from prison. He is currently 26 years old and has regained partial use of one arm. Thus, Contreras sought recovery of damages for medical expenses and past and future pain and suffering.
Defense counsel disputed the amount of life care alleged and contended that Contreras would only require six to eight hours per day for his care.
After a trial on liability, the jury unanimously found that the officers violated Contreras' civil rights through the use of excessive force. The parties then agreed to a settlement of $4.5 million, subject to approval by the Los Angeles City Council. The jury was subsequently dismissed because of the expected approval by the city. However, the City Council refused to settle.
Several months later, a second jury was chosen to hear the damages portion of the case. At that time, Contreras' claim for emotional damages/suffering was dropped. The second jury ultimately awarded Contreras $5,725,000 in damages for his physical pain only.
$4,500,000 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost
$175,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
$1,050,000 Personal Injury: Future Pain And Suffering
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.