In Nevada, security personnel and police officers are prohibited from using excessive force to exert control over others and may be liable for damages when unreasonable force results in injuries to others. Force is excessive when it is more than what is necessary to gain control over another person. Unfortunately, some security staff and police officers routinely use excessive force, and sometimes these actions result in serious injuries or even death to the victims.
What Is Excessive Force?
Security personnel and police officers may be required to use force to control others or to remove them, and they may inflict some pain or injuries to do so. However, the force that is used must be reasonable in light of the circumstances. Excessive force occurs when security personnel or police officers use more force than is necessary to gain control of people or to remove them from the premises.
One notorious example of the use of excessive force occurred in Chicago when a doctor was forcefully removed from a United Airlines flight. The man had originally agreed to give up his seat, but he then decided against it when he learned that another flight would not be available until the next day. After he told the flight staff that he had changed his mind because he had patients scheduled for the next day, aviation officers dragged him off of the plane. The doctor suffered two broken teeth, a concussion and a broken nose. He later reached a confidential settlement with the airline, and two of the aviation officers were fired.
In another case. a New York City hedge fund manager was attacked by a manager and security personnel at a nightclub on the Vegas Strip when a problem arose as he was attempting to settle his tab. According to reports, the man was forced into a security room and security personnel and a manager shoved him to the ground, repeatedly smashing his head into the concrete surface and hitting him. The victim suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of the attack. Initially seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for damages, personal injury lawyers for the victim settled with the nightclub for an undisclosed amount.
Types of Excessive Force
Excessive force may take several forms.
- Excessive physical force
- Unwarranted restraint use
- Unnecessary use of chemical agents
- Unnecessary verbal abuse
Some cases involve assaulting, hitting, battering or striking the victims. In many of these cases, the force far exceeds what is warranted under the circumstances. In Las Vegas, excessive physical force is sometimes used in hotel nightclubs and bars when security personnel uses much more force than is reasonable to remove patrons.
Sometimes, officers or security staff will use pepper spray or other chemical agents to gain control. Chemical agents are meant to be used to defend against aggressive attacks. When they are used improperly, some people may suffer serious allergic reactions or medical problems because of other health conditions that they might have.
Verbal abuse may sometimes constitute the excessive use of force. The use of racial slurs by officers or security staff is always unwarranted and may be recognized as excessive force.
Law enforcement officers in Nevada have qualified immunity and they are protected from lawsuits for using force in certain situations. However, when they use excessive force, they lose this protection. The determination of whether or not the force that was used crossed the line is a question of fact that is decided by the courts or juries.
Proving Excessive Force Claims
To prove excessive force claims, victims may need to collect a substantial amount of evidence. After the incidents, people should write narratives about what happened to them as soon as possible. If they are physically injured, they should take pictures of their injuries. Any clothing or property that is damaged in the incidents should be saved and stored in a safe place. If it is possible, victims should get the names and contact information of any witnesses who saw the incidents.
In many cases involving allegations of excessive force at hotels, casinos or other establishments, there may be video available. Personal injury lawyers or the victims may try to secure copies of the videotapes. If necessary, they might secure court orders for the preservation of this evidence to prevent it from being destroyed. Excessive force cases may be filed in state or federal court. If the victims prevail, they may recover monetary damages.