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$865,000 Jury Award in Missouri Police Excessive Force Case

On June 10, 2010, a Missouri federal jury awarded a victim of a St. Louis police beating $365,000 in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.

Kenneth Rohrbough is a former Marine who suffers from aphasia due to a traumatic brain injury he received in a vehicle accident. The aphasia makes it difficult for him to receive and express communication verbally or in writing. He also suffers from seizures, depression and anxiety due to his injuries.

Rohrbough went to an optometry shop near his home to pick up a pair of prescription glasses. The prescription was wrong, but he was unable to communicate this to the shop's clerk. He became frustrated and either left the store without paying for the glasses, threw the glasses down, damaging them, or damaged a display. The clerk saw several police officers exiting a patrol car at a nearby restaurant. She approached them, pointed to Rohrbough and told them he had just damaged some equipment in her office.

According to Rohrbough, three police officers approached him and at least one immediately attacked him, hitting him with fists, pushing him to the ground, handcuffing him and hitting him eight to ten times with a baton after he was on the ground, handcuffed and compliant.

Rohrbough received a subconjunctival hemorrhage on his left eye with orbital swelling, a fractured eighth rib, a 1.5 cm left infraorbital laceration requiring sutures, a 1 cm right parietal laceration requiring sutures, a 2.5 cm left maxillary laceration requiring sutures and a 3 cm abrasion on the left knee. The injuries belied the police officers' allegations that the arrest involved only one officer using minimal force.

Rohrbrough filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in federal court alleging, among other claims, that the police used excessive force, failed to intervene when excessive force was used and conspired to violate his civil rights. The jury found that Police Officer Luther Hall had done all three, but found in favor of the other defendants, which included police officers and the police commission. The total award against Hall was $865,000.

See: Rohrbough v. Hall, U.S.D.C. E.D.Mo., Case No. 4:07CV996 ERW.

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Related legal case

Rohrbough v. Hall