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$1.28 MILLION DOLLAR VERDICT IN SUIT AGAINST NYPD

USE OF EXCESSIVE FORCE BY POLICE

Ruiz v. The City of New York, Queens County

This was an action in which the plaintiff contended that four police officers utilized
excessive force and repeatedly struck him with a nightstick upon his exhibiting loud and
boisterous conduct in the early morning hours on a residential street in Queens while he
was inebriated.  As a result, he sustained a depressed skull fracture entailing multiple
fragments and brain damage which was manifesting in continued severe headaches,
dizziness and some loss of short term memory.

The plaintiff, who conceded that he was intoxicated, indicated that after he and his wife,
who had been out with friends, had picked up their 9-year-old daughter at the baby sitter’s
and were waiting for a cab at approximately 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, he had
commenced acting in a loud and boisterous manner.  Four police officers arrived and
commenced beating him repeatedly with their nightsticks. The plaintiff was arrested for
disorderly conduct, assault and resisting arrest.

The defendant contended that only two officers had initially responded and that they
observed the plaintiff beating his wife.

The officers argued that one of the officers attempted to take him into custody and that
before the handcuffs could be placed, the plaintiff kicked his wife in the groin. The officers
contended that the plaintiff then attempted to kick his wife a second time and that upon this
attempt, one of the officers struck him one time only in the head with the nightstick. The
officers contended that the plaintiff fell to the ground and did not instinctively place his
hands outward to break his fall, striking his head on the sidewalk.

The plaintiff presented the treating neurosurgeon who contended that the plaintiff sustained
a depressed skull fracture involving multiple fragments, a subdural hematoma and an
epidural hematoma. The physician contended that such injuries would be likely to be
caused by repeated blows and the plaintiff contended that the officers’ testimony that the
plaintiff was struck only once and fell to the ground should not be accepted.

The defendant further contended that the officers who indicated that they subsequently
arrived on the scene had taken the wife to the emergency room because of bruising. The
defendant contended that numerous patients were present at the emergency room, that the
wife declined to wait for medical assistance, and that there would be, therefore, no records
of this visit at the emergency room. The wife denied that her husband had beat her, or that
the officers took her to the emergency room. The plaintiff also confronted one of these
officers with his memo book in which he indicated that he had assisted in the arrest, and the
plaintiff contended that the defendant’s contentions that only two officers were initially
present should not be accepted. This officer testified that his assist entailed transporting the
wife to the hospital and the plaintiff countered that his memo book did not include any
mention of such transport.

The treating neurosurgeon related that the plaintiff required surgery to remove the bone
fragments and evacuate the hematomas.

The physician indicated that approximately six months later, the plaintiff underwent a
second procedure in which a plate was inserted into the head and that this surgery was
required to close an opening in the skull created during the first surgery.

The plaintiff contended that he suffers severe headaches and dizziness on a continual basis,
and that he also continues to experience some difficulties with short term memory. The
defendant, who produced no medical testimony, contended that since every clinical
neurological test and the Cat scans following the first post incident CAT Scan were
negative, the plaintiff’s contentions of continuing complaints should not be accepted. The
plaintiff’s neurosurgeon did not dispute that with the exception of the initial, pre-surgical
CAT Scan, all further testing was negative. The expert contended, however, that negative
CAT Scans after the evacuation of the hematoma would not be unusual notwithstanding
continuing complaints. The physician indicated that the clinical neurological tests which
were performed measured motor and sensory deficits and contended that the areas of the
brain which were injured do not control such functioning. He maintained that it was likely,
therefore, that the clinical neurological testing would be negative notwithstanding the
continued severe headaches and dizziness which he contended can be caused by injury to
any number of different areas of the brain. The physician also maintained that continuing
headaches and dizziness are results which occur relatively frequently following such a
depressed skull fracture and contended that they will probably remain permanently.

The plaintiff, who had been employed as an assistant paper cutter, maintained that because
of the continuing headaches and dizziness, he is unable to perform his duties, and
contended that he will be permanently unemployable. The plaintiff had emigrated to this
country from his native Columbia several years before the incident. The plaintiff presented
the former employer who hired him approximately two years before the incident, who
testified that the plaintiff was a very hard working employee who was never absent, had
worked extensive overtime, and had performed in an excellent manner despite frequent
pressure stemming from large orders.  

The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $1.28 Million.

Ruiz vs. The City of New York. Index no. ________/83;
Judge Martha Zelman, 1-27-89.
Attorney for plaintiff: Robert M. Ginsberg, Esq.
Attorney for defendant: Murray Kaplan, Esq. of Corp. Counsel, Queens.
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