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When Is a City Responsible for the Actions of Public Servants?

a motorcycle police officer writing a ticket at a stop.

Did you know that if a city official hurts or injures a person while fulfilling the duties of their job, the city could be liable for damages? This is an area of civil law that not everyone knows about, and many would think that this doesn’t happen often. However, the action of public servants has taken many Bay Area cities to court recently, and here are a couple of those cases.

When Cities Pay for the Actions of Public Servants

On July 11, 2018, a group of people gathered near Dolores Park to ride their skateboards downhill. The event attracted many spectators, whose cars blocked the streets. Neighbors began to complain about all the cars in the area, and that’s when police responded.

The event organizers had not acquired a permit for the downhill exhibition, so police came to shut it down. However, before the crowds and skaters were asked to leave, one competitor had a nasty spill. This skateboarder crashed into a police cruiser after bouncing off a police officer, suffering a broken ankle, torn ligaments, a sprained ankle and a large wound. He would later be transported to the hospital for treatment.

After the crash, the skateboarder filed a lawsuit against the City of San Francisco. He claims that the officer that bumped him did so maliciously, and so the city should compensate him for damages. Several videos of the incident have surfaced showing what some claim to be a police sergeant intentionally leaning into the skateboarder. The city is refusing to comment on pending litigation, but San Francisco isn’t the only Bay Area city dealing with alleged public servant behavior problems.

Another Case of Public Officials Acting Badly

In Oakland, a city councilwoman got in a heated argument with a former member of the Black Panther party. During that argument, the former Black Panther—a 72-year-old woman—was allegedly shoved to the ground. That woman took the City of Oakland to court, where a jury ruled the councilwoman had attacked the woman while serving the city in an official capacity. Oakland will now be required to pay $3.77 million to the victim.

The behavior of public officials is important to the public they serve and to the city that they work for. If one of these officials harms a member of that public, then the city could be held liable for the damages suffered. This is why it is important to call a lawyer after any incident with a public official. You have rights under the law, and the Bay Area attorneys at Mary Alexander and Associates, P.C. can help you explore those rights.

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