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$40,251 Default Judgment for Detainee in Malicious Prosecution by Georgia Police Officer

On March 26, 2021, a federal district court in Georgia awarded a $40,251 default judgment in a lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution by a Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Officer. The damages were mainly due to the time spent in jail by the pro se plaintiff.

The order by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Gerogia adopted the Report and Recommendation of a magistrate judge entered on February 24, 2021, in response to a motion for default judgment by the plaintiff, Tavon R. Wright, after the Defendant, Officer Kevin Fikes, waived personal service and failed to file a responsive pleading as required by January 6, 2019.

After finding it had jurisdiction over the case, the Court found Wright pleaded sufficient facts to support a malicious prosecution claim against Fikes: “Specifically, (1) he alleged that by securing the warrant Fikes initiated the criminal prosecution, (2) his allegation that Fikes knowingly lied alleged malice, [and] (3) he alleged that the prosecution was terminated in his favor when it was dismissed.”

The Court then turned to the issue of damages. It found Wright failed to establish harm from his conditions of confinement in jail or that the arrest was the cause of fear from persons who allegedly shot at him during the altercation that led to the arrest. He also failed to show his homelessness after release was a foreseeable consequence of the arrest.

The Court, however, did find that Wright could recover damages for the violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure, which resulted in seven days in jail. For that violation, the Court awarded $1 in nominal damages. Based upon Wright’s testimony about the circumstances of his detention and its duration, the Court awarded him $15,000 in compensatory damages. It also awarded him $250 to purchase a new pistol to replace the gun that was confiscated from him by police and not returned. Finally, the Court awarded Wright $25,000 in damages for the emotional distress he suffered.

Wright proceeded pro se in prosecuting his lawsuit. See: Wright v. City of Savannah, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58642; and 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58146 (S.D. Ga.). 

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Wright v. City of Savannah

Wright v. City of Savannah