Justices order trial on reasonable force issue

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A law enforcement officer’s use of force in excess of reasonable force authorized by statute isn't shielded from liability under the "enforcement of a law" immunity under Indiana Code Section 34-13-3-3(8), the Indiana Supreme Court held today.

The justices ruled on the issue of immunity under the Indiana Tort Claims Act in Richard Patrick Wilson and Billy Don Wilson v. Gene Isaacs, Sheriff of Cass County, and Brad Craven, No. 09S05-1003-CV-149. Brothers Patrick and Billy Don Wilson sued Sheriff Gene Isaacs and Deputy Brad Craven for damages after Craven used a Taser on Richard three times, two of which happened after he was already immobile on the ground. The defendants were granted summary judgment by the trial court; the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed for Craven but reversed as to Isaac.

At issue in the appeal is whether the law enforcement immunity is available to shield the government from liability on claims of excess force. The brothers argue the government isn’t immune from liability for Craven’s conduct because disputed facts exist as to whether the deputy used unreasonable and excessive force contrary to Indiana statute.

The Supreme Court held in Kemezy v. Peters that the use of excessive force is not conduct immunized by the enforcement of a law immunity of the Indiana Tort Claims Act; the defendants argued that rule no longer applies because it was based on a public/private duty test for law enforcement immunity that was later disavowed in other caselaw.

 The high court relied on Patrick v. Miresso, 848 N.E.2d 1083 (Ind. 2006), to find that the statutory provision authorizing a law enforcement officer’s use of reasonable force only if the officer reasonably believes the force is necessary for a lawful arrest restrains the statutory immunity from erecting a shield to liability for conduct contrary to the statute, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. The justice also disapproved the contrary view expressed in City of Anderson v. Davis, 743 N.E.2d 359, 365 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001).

"Although we conclude that the law enforcement immunity of the Indiana Tort Claims Act does not shield the government from liability for excessive force by police, there remain genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Deputy Craven's conduct was reasonable and whether he reasonably believed that the force he used was 'necessary to effect a lawful arrest,'" wrote the justice.

The high court summarily affirmed summary judgment on the plaintiffs' claims against Deputy Craven personally. Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard dissented without opinion.  


Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  2. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  3. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.

  4. While if true this auto dealer should be held liable, where was the BMV in all of this? How is it that the dealer was able to get "clean" titles to these vehicles in order to sell them to unsuspecting consumers?

  5. He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance. He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation: For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless [ ] Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. GOD BLESS THE GOVERNORS RESISTING! Count on the gutless judiciary to tie our children down and facilitate the swords being drawn across their throats. Wake Up America ...