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Georgia Man Settles for $20,000 Against Atlanta Police Officer

by Christopher Zoukis

After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Atlanta Police officer M.H. Payne, claims of excessive force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against the officer were settled for $20,000.

     On June 18, 2005, Lamont Johnson, 40, was leaning on a safety barricade when Payne, who was performing crowd control in the area, shouted at Johnson to move away from the barricade. Johnson alleged that Payne, without warning or provocation, grabbed him, yelled profanity, and threw him over the barricade onto the pavement. Payne then allegedly dragged Johnson across the street and arrested him.

     Johnson was charged with disorderly conduct while under the influence, blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and acting violently. He spent two nights in jail. Charges were dismissed after the officer failed to appear in court.

     Johnson sued Payne and the city of Atlanta in federal court, claiming false arrest and imprisonment, excessive force, and malicious prosecution in violation of state and federal civil rights laws. He alleged that Payne's actions constituted battery and that the city was negligent in hiring such a violent person. Johnson claimed to have suffered several injuries, including to his back, emotional distress, lost wages, reputational damage, and damage to his vehicle.

     The defendants claimed that Payne's actions were reasonable, necessary and handled in good faith, and that there was probable cause to arrest Johnson. They claimed governmental and qualified immunity.

     The court granted summary judgment in the city's favor, and it granted summary judgment for Payne on the issue of using excessive force. However, the remaining claims against Payne -- false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and violation of state law -- were set to proceed to trial. Prior to the trial, the parties agreed to a settlement of $20,000, which included costs and attorney fees.

See: Johnson v. The City of Atlanta, et al., United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Case No. 1:06-cv-01706 (Apr. 21, 2008)


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Related legal case

Johnson v. The City of Atlanta, et al.