A. M. v. County of Ventura
While attending a family wedding, A. M., a former police officer, attempted to take a pistol away from a drunken wedding guest. During the ensuing struggle, the gun discharged. Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputies, who had been called to the scene, surrounded the area. One of the deputies, who had less than 4 months of patrol experience, believed the gun was being pointed in her direction. In fear for her life, she fired her own gun at the wedding guest, striking A. M. instead. The bullet struck A. M.in the back causing permanent nerve damage.
The County of Ventura contended that because the deputy believed her life was being threatened at the time she fired, neither she nor the County should be held liable. Consequently, the County offered A. M. only $10,000 to settle his case.
After a three-week trial in the United States District Court (Los Angeles), Peter Williamson obtained a unanimous verdict in favor of A. M. in the sum of $2.1 Million dollars – at the time the largest verdict against a police agency in Ventura County history. [Note: The case was ultimately settled after trial for $2,475.000.00 which included an additional sum for attorney’s fees.]