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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacates summary judgment granted to defendant law enforcement officer on plaintiff's excessive-force claim.

On March 30, 2017, in Stephens v. Degiovanni, No. 15-10206, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a summary judgment granted to the defendant law enforcement officer on the plaintiff’s claim of excessive-force in effecting an arrest. The Eleventh Circuit noted that a law enforcement officer’s qualified immunity is unavailable “if an official knew or reasonably should have known that the action he took within his sphere of official responsibility would violate the constitutional rights of the plaintiff.” In an excessive force case, the Court noted that it must determine whether the officer’s conduct is objectively reasonable or it is an over-reactive, disproportionate action for the situation relative to the response of the apprehended person. The Court concluded that if the plaintiff’s version of the facts underlying the arrest were accepted, this was an “obvious-clarity” case under Supreme Court and Eleventh Circuit precedents, i.e., a case in which no factually particularized, preexisting case law is necessary for it to be very obvious to every objectively reasonable officer that the conduct violated the plaintiff’s right to be free of the excessive use of force.

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