A. D. v. State of Cal. Highway Patrol

Following a high-speed car chase, Karen Eckland was shot and killed by Officer Stephen Markgraf, who was employed by the State of California Highway Patrol. The Scott Law Firm represented Eckland’s children A.D. and J.E. who sued alleging the police violated their Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in the “companionship and society of their mother.”

The case went to trial. A federal jury reached a unanimous verdict in plaintiffs’ favor, by determining Officer Markgraf violated our clients’ Constitutional rights. On appeal, Markgraf argued the jury’s verdict should be reversed based on a defense called “qualified immunity.” Markgraf contended that his violation of the Constitution was not based on “clearly-established” law. The Ninth Circuit squarely rejected this theory because the jury had determined Officer Markgraf acted with a “purpose to harm” that was “unrelated to any legitimate law-enforcement purpose.”

The Ninth Circuit published its decision to clarify the applicable standard under the Fourteenth Amendment in civil-rights jurisprudence. The district court also awarded the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ requests for fees and costs for litigating this important case and appeal in a judgment against the defendants.

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