Fifth Circuit says County, Deputies not liable in Taser death

The Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals has held that Harris County, the Sheriff and his deputies are not liable for claims arising from the death of Wayne Pratt after he had been Tased and restrained by deputies following a traffic stop in 2010.

Pratt’s mother sued the county, then sheriff Adrian Garcia and 11 deputies in 2012 alleging various violations of Pratt’s Fourth Amendment rights.  The lawsuit claimed that it was not necessary for Pratt to be hog-tied or subjected to Taser shocks in order to restrain him and that as a result he was treated “inhumanely, and incurred extreme pain, injury, and death.”

The District Court dismissed the complaint against the officers and Harris County in 2015.

The Appellate court found that the plaintiff did not show that the use of Tasers was “clearly excessive” or “unreasonable”.

The Court observed that it has have never held that four point restraint also called “hog-tying” is a per se unconstitutional technique of controlling a resisting arrestee. “An assertion of hog-tying alone does not constitute a claim of excessive force. Instead, Pratt “must demonstrate: ‘(1) [an] injury, (2) which resulted directly and only from a use of force that was clearly excessive, and (3) the excessiveness of which was clearly unreasonable.”

The Court ruled that in light of Pratt’s recurring violence toward the officers and his refusal to the cease resisting it was not “clearly excessive” or “unreasonable” for HCSD officers to restrain him as they did

The opinion is available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/15/15-20080-CV0.pdf