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Ohio Verdicts

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Plaintiff: Police punched him, kept him in locker room for days

Amount:

$22,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Ohio

Venue:

Cuyahoga County

Court:

Cuyahoga County, Court of Common Pleas

Injury Type(s):

mental/psychological-emotional distress

Case Type:

Government - Police; Intentional Torts - Battery; Government - Excessive Force, False Imprisonment; Intentional Torts - False Arrest; Civil Rights - Police as Defendant

Case Name:

Arnold Black v. Detective Randy Hicks, Officer Jonathan O'Leary, Chief Ralph Spotts and City of East Cleveland, No. CV-14-826010

Date:

May 31, 2016

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Arnold Black (Male, 45 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Mark A. DiCello; The DiCello Law Firm; Mentor, OH, for Arnold Black ■ Robert F. DiCello; The DiCello Law Firm; Mentor, OH, for Arnold Black

Defendant(s):

Chief Ralph Spotts, 

Detective Randy Hicks, 

City of East Cleveland, 

Officer Jonathan O'Leary

Defense Attorney(s):

Willa Hemmons; City of East Cleveland Law Department; East Cleveland, OH, for Chief Ralph Spotts, City of East Cleveland, Officer Jonathan O'Leary ■ Randy Hicks; Pro Se; East Cleveland, OH, for Detective Randy Hicks

Facts:

In the late evening of April 28, 2012, plaintiff Arnold Black, 45, a landscaper, was driving a green Chevrolet Silverado in East Cleveland. Black was stopped by East Cleveland police detective Randy Hicks and officer Jonathan O'Leary on the belief that the vehicle contained cocaine. Black denied possessing any drugs, but was arrested and taken to the East Cleveland Police Station. He was transferred to the City of Cleveland Jail on May 2, 2012. On June 4, 2012, Black was indicted on cocaine charges. The case against Black was ultimately dropped due to lack of evidence. Black alleged that his civil rights were violated at the time of his arrest and while being detained. Black sued the city of East Cleveland, Hicks, O'Leary and police chief Ralph Spotts, alleging excessive force, battery, false imprisonment/arrest and federal civil rights violations. After Black denied possessing any drugs, he claimed he was struck in the face by Hicks and placed in handcuffs. He asserted that Hicks struck him in the face a second time before transporting him to the East Cleveland Police Station. For a period of four days, Black claimed he was held in a locker room without food or water and forced to urinate into a nearby locker. Black alleged that Hicks, who resigned from the police force several days after the incident, used unnecessary force during the stop and that there had been no basis for Black's imprisonment in a locked room. Black further alleged that Hicks' conduct was symptomatic of a policy of violence instituted by Spotts and the East Cleveland police department, which encouraged officers to use violence in order to instill fear and control. At trial, Black's girlfriend and brother each testified that they attempted to search for Black at the East Cleveland police station, only to be told that he was not being held there. The city of East Cleveland denied liability, arguing that Hicks was responsible for Black's unlawful arrest and detention and was acting on his own. The city named Hicks as a cross-defendant, but the cross claim was dismissed at the onset of trial. Counsel for the city of East Cleveland did not appear at trial. At trial, Hicks testified that he thought he had seen Black's vehicle in a previous narcotics bust. Hicks testified that he and other officers had been instructed by Spotts to use violence against individuals in order to exert dominance. Prior to trial, Judge Sutula issued a discovery sanction against defense counsel in light of their failure to answer written requests to produce documents and files related to Black's arrest.

Injury:

Black claimed the use of excessive force, false imprisonment and civil rights violations. He claimed the experience was intensely traumatic, and that he developed a dramatic personality change, causing him to become paranoid and develop short-term memory problems. Black claimed he is unable to perform multiple tasks at once and complains of difficulty concentrating at work or interacting with friends and family. The city of East Cleveland disputed all damages claims.

Result:

The jury found in favor of Black against Hicks and O'Leary for violation of Black's federal civil rights; against the city of East Cleveland for municipal liability; against Hicks and O'Leary for false imprisonment/arrest; against Hicks and O'Leary for battery; and against Spotts for supervisor liability and spoliation. The jury awarded Black $10 million in compensatory damages, jointly and severally against all defendants. The jury also awarded Black $12 million in punitive damages, with Spotts responsible for $11 million on the supervisor liability and spoliation claims, and O'Leary responsible for $1 million on the federal civil rights, false imprisonment/arrest and battery claims.

Arnold Black: $12,000,000 Personal Injury: Punitive Exemplary Damages; $10,000,000 Personal Injury: Compensatory Damages

Trial Information:

Judge:

John D. Sutula

Trial Length:

3  days

Trial Deliberations:

6  hours

Jury Vote:

unanimous

Jury Composition:

4 male/ 4 female

Post Trial:

At the time of publication, defense counsel was intending to appeal the verdict.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.