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Flores-Haro v. Slade

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division

October 11, 2018

ADALBERTO FLORES-HARO et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
STEPHEN SLADE et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MICHAEL W. MOSMAN CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before me on four post-trial motions: Defendant City of Hillsboro's Objections to Plaintiffs' Proposed Form of Judgment [367], Defendant Washington County's Motion for Election of Remedies, Remittitur, and to Reduce Award Consistent with OTCA Limits [368], and Defendants' Motions to Alter or Amend Judgment [406, 412]. For the reasons below, these motions are resolved in part.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Factual Background

         On the evening of March 13, 2012, officers from Washington County and the cities of Hillsboro and Portland started to execute a “high risk” search and arrest warrant in Columbia Villa, a neighborhood with a high incidence of drug- and gang-related activity. Adalberto Flores-Haro's home was next door to the target address and the officers were on and around his property. Two officers went into Mr. Flores-Haro's backyard when the operation started. Other officers moved through an alleyway adjacent to his home. Neither the officers nor the police departments asked for permission to be on Mr. Flores-Haro's property, nor did they warn him of their plans.

         Mr. Flores-Haro and his family, unaware of the police operation, became scared that a home invasion was afoot. Plaintiff Alma Granado-Milan, Mr. Flores-Haro's wife, heard their dogs barking and went downstairs to investigate. She alerted her husband that there was someone in the backyard after she saw an unfamiliar person through the blinds and heard a noise by their fence. Mr. Flores-Haro then saw a shadowy figure running towards his front yard and went outside to confront the intruder. Upon exiting his house, Mr. Flores-Haro saw more shadowy figures in the area. Hoping to intimidate whomever was circling his house, Mr. Flores-Haro yelled inside to his son for a .44 caliber handgun. When his son could not find the gun, Mr. Flores-Haro went inside to get it himself. After retrieving the gun, Mr. Flores-Haro took one or two steps past his front door with the gun in his hand before he was shot by the officers. He sustained wounds to his right elbow, right hand, and abdomen.

         After being shot, Mr. Flores-Haro sought protection inside his home, stating that he was terrified whoever had shot him would try to hurt his family. His children were downstairs screaming while Mr. Flores-Haro lay on the ground clutching his wounds. The police ordered the family out of the house at gunpoint, forcing them to step over their father, who was now unconscious. Mr. Flores-Haro regained consciousness when the police officers dragged him outside by the arms. He was in a coma for almost two weeks after the shooting and was left with permanent injuries, pain, and substantial physical limitations.

         After the incident, the officers who shot Mr. Flores-Haro reported that they had been fired upon. No casings or bullets from Mr. Flores-Haro's gun were recovered from the scene.

         II. Procedural Background

         Mr. Flores-Haro, along with his wife and their children, brought suit against the two officers who shot him and the officers' employers, Washington County and the City of Hillsboro. Asserting Fourth Amendment violations, Mr. Flores-Haro and his family brought claims against the officers and the municipalities under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also brought state law claims of battery, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the two municipalities. After interlocutory appeal, the § 1983 claims were dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity, leaving only the state law claims against Washington County and Hillsboro. See Flores-Haro v. Slade, 686 Fed.Appx. 454 (9th Cir. 2017).

         At trial, Plaintiffs' counsel submitted evidence of Mr. Flores-Haro's medical bills related to the shooting, which totaled $498, 006.79. Pl. Ex. 25. In his closing argument, Plaintiff's counsel stated that “[t]he only type of economic damages are Mr. Flores-Haro's medical bills. The amount of those bills, reasonableness and necessity, is not in dispute; and that's in Exhibit 25 before you.” Trial Tr. 1695. Plaintiffs' counsel also presented evidence of Mr. Flores-Haro's ongoing pain, permanent disability, and the possibility of an elbow replacement surgery when Mr. Flores-Haro is older.

         At the conclusion of Plaintiffs' evidence, Hillsboro argued for judgment as a matter of law on the ground that the negligence and battery claims were inconsistent. Trial Tr. 826. Because there was only one alleged harm-the shooting-Hillsboro argued that Plaintiffs' negligence claim was foreclosed by their battery claim. Id. In support of this argument, Defendants have asserted that “there can be no unintentional, intentional conduct.” Hillsboro's Reply Obj. Limit J. [394] at 9.

         I denied the motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the battery claim and the negligence claim rested on distinct factual predicates. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Flores-Haro. The jury found Washington County and Hillsboro liable for battery, awarding $1, 500, 000 in economic damages and $1, 000, 000 in noneconomic damages. The jury also found liability for negligence, awarding Mr. Flores-Haro $500, 000 in economic damages and $4, 000, 000 in noneconomic damages, but also finding Mr. Flores-Haro comparatively negligent. The jury found Washington County 50% negligent, Hillsboro 8% negligent, and Mr. Flores-Haro 42% negligent. The jury did not find Defendants liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress to Mr. Flores-Haro's family members. In total, after accounting for Mr. Flores-Haro's comparative negligence, the jury awarded $5, 110, 000 to Mr. Flores-Haro on the battery and negligence claims.

         LEGAL ...


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