Will ND Judge Dismiss Pipeline Protester’s Injury Claim?
In every jurisdiction, lawsuits against police officers are tricky. The state has what is called sovereign immunity against civil actions that allows it to severely limit a plaintiff’s recovery in a personal injury lawsuit. A New York City woman is facing an uphill battle in the North Dakota courts after she claims she sustained a serious arm injury caused by a North Dakota police officer.
Officers had been called to corral protesters who migrated to North Dakota on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe that claimed the Dakota Access Pipeline represented a threat to the clean water of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. The Army Corps of Engineers determined that there was little threat to the rivers under which the pipeline would run and the Sioux filed suit against them. Their claim was dismissed. However, protestors from all across the country showed up in solidarity with the Sioux and set up camp in North Dakota prompting skirmishes between the protestors and the police.
Later, then-president Obama denied an easement and forced the Corps of Engineers to reevaluate their claims that the pipeline posed no danger to the rivers, but many protestors stayed behind despite the fact. When now-president Trump was elected, the easement was granted and the pipeline was allowed to continue. More protesters poured in and the National Guard was called to evict the protesters from the land. The tactics used by the National Guard and state authorities gained national media attention. This included the use of water cannons in freezing weather, pepper spray, and dogs.
Protester’s Arm Injured by Concussion Grenade?
The lawsuit, filed by Sophia Wilansky, alleges that police and other security personnel used a “concussion grenade” or a stun grenade. The explosion, she claims, injured one of her arms and she has required five surgeries since to repair the damage. Police, on the other hand, are accusing the protesters themselves of building a propane canister rigged to explode and that is what caused the woman’s injuries. The police further claim that the woman has no evidence that her civil rights were violated.
Wilansky, on the other hand, alleges that the stun grenade was thrown directly at her and that law enforcement laughed after she was harmed by the grenade. She also claims that law enforcement made untrue statements that the woman was carrying an explosive device on her and that is why she was injured.
In North Dakota, damages against the state are capped at $250,000 and individual employees cannot be held civilly liable if they were acting on behalf of the state.
If the plaintiffs can show that the employee intended to harm the protester by throwing the flash grenade directly at her, this becomes a different story altogether. Since, in that case, the state can claim that the employee was acting outside the scope of their duties, the employee can be held personally liable for the claim.
Talk to a Miami Personal Injury Attorney
The Miami legal team at the office of Alan Goldfarb P.A. handles lawsuits against the State of Florida or other negligent parties. Give us a call or talk to us online to set up an appointment today.