$1.1 Million Verdict for Man Attacked by Police Canine

Won a $1.1 million verdict for a 62-year-old man who was attacked by a police canine while he was inside a fenced construction site at night with his 73-year-old friend, trying to rescue her cat. San Mateo County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Laughlin ordered his police canine "Riggs" to attack Plaintiff Richard May without proper warning, while May was standing out in the open waiting for officers to walk up and talk with him. Plaintiff's injuries took over a year to heal. Later, while Plaintiff was under arrest receiving treatment at the hospital, Deputy Laughlin stuck a sticker on Plaintiff's chest that said, "I Met Riggs" and took a trophy photo of Plaintiff. The jury also found that Deputy Laughlin acted with malice, oppression, or in reckless disregard of the Plaintiff's rights, and assessed punitive damages against the deputy in the amount of $100,000.

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Related Headlines
  • Jury awards $1.1 million to man bit by police dog while rescuing cat
    Robert Salonga, San Jose Mercury News, June 14, 2017

    HALF MOON BAY -- A man who was bitten by a police dog while trying to rescue a friend's cat at a construction site two years ago was awarded $1.1 million Tuesday by a federal civil jury, which ruled that San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies used excessive force in deploying the animal. ... The jury award was issued after two days of deliberations over the case of 64-year-old Richard Earl May Jr., who entered a fenced construction site near Bloom Lane the night of New Year’s Day 2015 to help his 73-year-old friend retrieve her cat Domino. The feline was heard cat meowing from inside a building on the grounds, and they could find neither security guards on site nor a reachable phone number. So May reportedly trespassed onto the site and triggered a security alarm, which summoned deputies. May alleged in his lawsuit that Deputy Chris Laughlin and two other deputies gave Riggs commands and he first sniffed at May then attacked him after more commands. The police dog bit May's legs, causing injuries that attorney Michael Haddad said took over a year to heal. ... The jury awarded May $1 million in compensatory damages for his injuries and $100,000 in punitive damages. ... “This verdict sends a strong message to law enforcement that a police canine is a severe use of force that should be reserved for serious crimes, where officers are truly in immediate danger,” civil rights attorney Michael Haddad said in a statement. “The community will not tolerate reckless use of a police canine like we saw here.”