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Patterson v. City of Omaha

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 9, 2015

Tyrone J. Patterson, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
City of Omaha, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska; Molly Hiatt, both individually and officially as an officer of the Omaha Police Department; Paul Hasiak, both individually and officially as an officer of the Omaha Police Department, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted October 8, 2014

Page 796

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Omaha.

For Tyrone J. Patterson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Sheri Long Cotton, Stockbridge, GA; Judith A. Wells, Omaha, NE.

For City of Omaha, a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska, Molly Hiatt, both individually and officially as an officer of the Omaha Police Department, Paul Hasiak, both individually and officially as an officer of the Omaha Police Department, Defendants - Appellees: William Acosta-Trejo, Thomas O. Mumgaard, CITY OF OMAHA, Legal Department, Omaha, NE.

Before MURPHY, SMITH, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 797

SMITH, Circuit Judge.

Tyrone Patterson appeals the district court's[1] denial of his motion for a new trial after a jury returned a verdict finding that Patterson was a victim of a police officer's use of excessive force, yet only awarded $1 in nominal damages. After issuing its verdict, the jury, on its own accord, issued jury statements to each of the parties. The statements gave the jury's reasoning for its verdict. Patterson moved to alter or amend the judgment or, in the alternative, for a new trial. The district court denied the motion and upheld the verdict. Patterson also appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in a separate phase of the litigation. We affirm.

I. Background

" We set forth the facts in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict." Hous. 21, L.L.C. v. A. Home Builders Co., 289 F.3d 1050, 1051 (8th Cir. 2002). On April 13, 2009, Patterson's mother requested assistance from City of Omaha police after Patterson refused to leave following an argument. Officers Molly Hiatt and Paul Hasiak were dispatched to the house. Upon reaching the house, the officers briefly talked with Patterson's mother on the front lawn. She expressed that she wanted Patterson to leave but that he refused. Hiatt testified that Patterson's mother stood near " the edge of the patio on the grass" for the entire incident. The officers approached Patterson, who sat on a chair on the porch. The officers told him several times that he had to leave because the owner of the property wanted him to leave and that he had no legal right to remain. Patterson was calm at first, but became noticeably agitated when the officers suggested that Patterson could go to a homeless shelter.

Patterson refused several additional pleas to leave the property and became increasingly agitated. The officers then advised Patterson that he was under arrest and would have to be physically removed from the property. Hasiak moved behind Patterson into a position to handcuff him. Both Hiatt and Hasiak attempted to move Patterson out of the chair by grabbing his arm and lifting him from under his armpits. Patterson began to resist.

Patterson and Hasiak began scuffling. While scuffling, the men lost their balance

Page 798

and fell to the ground; on the way down, both men fell against a barbeque grill " with considerable force." The scuffle continued on the ground. Hasiak then employed several immobilization techniques that he learned during police training. First, Hasiak punched Patterson in the stomach area with a closed fist to make his breathing more difficult. When this did not work, Hiatt attempted to use her taser to subdue Patterson. However, the taser probes did not connect properly. Hasiak then attempted another immobilization technique by thrusting his knee into Patterson's thigh. Patterson continued to resist. Hiatt again fired her taser, and again the taser probes did not connect properly. Hasiak then used ...


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