False Arrest And Excessive Force – Plainclothes Police – Punitive Damages – Record. New York State Verdict – Reduced As Excessive By The Trial Court
VERDICT: $76,115,000. $51,290,000 for Gerard Papa, $24,825,000 for James Rampersant.
Breakdown: (Papa award): $1,790,000 total award for past compensatory damages, broken down as follows: $100,000 for physical pain and suffering; $ 40,000 for emotional distress; $1,000,000 for injury to reputation; $500, 000 for shame and humiliation; $140,000 for loss of earnings; $10,000 for legal expenses; no award for medical expense per stipulation. $24,500,000 total award for future compensatory damages (over a period of 37 years), broken down as follows: $8,000,000 for physical pain and suffering; $3,000, 000 for emotional distress; $2,000,000 for injury to reputation; $1,000, 000 for shame and humiliation; $10,500,000 for loss of earning capacity. $ 25,000,000 total award for punitive damages (against Deft. police officers Boyle, Hunt, Williams, Giallombardo, and Trapani), broken down as follows: $ 5,000,000 for wrongful conduct in detaining Papa; $5,000,000 for wrongful conduct during the shooting; $5,000,000 for wrongful conduct in beating Papa; $5,000,000 for wrongful arrest; $5,000,000 for malicious prosecution.
(Rampersant award): $825,000 total award for past compensatory damages, broken down as follows: $25,000 for physical pain and suffering; $40,000 for emotional distress; $250,000 for injury to reputation; $500,000 for shame and humiliation; $10,000 for legal expenses; no award for medical expenses per stipulation. $3,000,000 total award for future compensatory damages (over a period of 41 years), broken down as follows: $1,000,000 for emotional distress; $1,000,000 for injury to reputation; $1,000,000 for shame and humiliation. $21,000,000 total award for punitive damages (against Deft. police officers Boyle, Hunt, Williams, Giallombardo, and Trapani): $5,000,000 for wrongful conduct in detaining Papa; $5,000,000 for wrongful conduct during the shooting; $1,000,000 for wrongful conduct in mistreating Pitt after he was pulled from car; $5,000, 000 for wrongful arrest; $5,000,000 for malicious prosecution.
Reduction: by the trial court (see Judge Held’s decision in The New York Law Journal, April 26, 1990, p. 27, col. 5):
Papa: total reduction from $51,290,000 to $3,850,000 plus legal fees of $122,100 to Schneider, Kleinick & Weitz under 42 USC 1988.
Breakdown: $925,000 for future pain and suffering (reduced from $8, 000,000); $370,000 for future emotional distress (reduced from $3,000,000 ); $1,295,000 for future lost earnings (reduced from $10,500,000). The award for shame and injury to future reputation reduced from $1,500,000 to six cents. The Court then reduced the total punitive damages award to $ 250,000 against each of the five police officers, for a total punitive damage award for Papa in the amount of $1,250,000.
Rampersant: total reduction from $24,825,000 to $1,350,000 plus $36, 150 to Mr. DeVries for legal fees pursuant to 42 USC 1988.
Breakdown: $25,000 for past pain and suffering (unchanged); $10,000 for legal expenses (unchanged); $40,000 for past emotional distress ( unchanged); $25,000 for past shame and humiliation (reduced from $500,000 ); $25,000 for past injury to reputation (reduced from $250,000). The award for shame and injury to future reputation reduced from $750,000 to six cents. The Court then reduced the total punitive damages award to $ 250,000 against each of the five police officers, for a total punitive damage award for Rampersant in the amount of $1,250,000.
VII/42-1 False Arrest And Excessive Force – Plainclothes Police – Punitive Damages – Record. New York State Verdict – Reduced As Excessive By The Trial Court
Gerard J. Papa and James Rampersant, Jr. v. City of New York/Gerard J. Papa and James Rampersant, Jr. v. NYCPD and/or NYCHA Police Officers Arthur Williams, Anthony Giallombardo, John Hunt, Gary Trapani, Patrick Boyle, and “John Does” (officers unknown) 15695/86 and 6090/87 Verdict 3/7/90 Judge Gerald S. Held, Kings Supreme
Pltf. Atty: Harvey Weitz of Schneider, Kleinick & Weitz, Manhattan, for Papa; Keith DeVries, Manhattan, for Rampersant
Deft. Atty: Robert W. Saul, Asst. Corp. Counsel
The incident from which this case arose occurred on the evening of 3/12/86 on a Brooklyn street. Pltfs. brought suit against the City of New York and a group of police officers for violation of their civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983, and under New York Law. Pltfs. claimed false arrest, malicious prosecution, and wrongful imprisonment. Pltf. Gerard Papa, a Columbia Law School graduate, had taken leave from his position as a Wall Street tax attorney to organize a youth group known as The Flames. The purpose of this group was to bring together mixed-race youngsters to play ball. Mr. Papa is white. Pltf. James Rampersant, a black man, was a friend of Papa’s from the neighborhood. On the evening in question, Papa was driving down the street when he noticed Rampersant coming from a store. He waved him over to his car, and the two drove around the neighborhood chatting. As they were riding down a one- way street, they suddenly came upon a car heading in the wrong direction towards them. Papa stopped, attempted to back up, and collided with another car that had pulled in behind him. The cars that boxed in Pltf.’s vehicle were unmarked police cars. The police officers, in casual plainclothes, jumped out of their cars. Pltfs. thought that they had been caught in the middle of a drug deal. Pltfs. testified that Defts. did not identify themselves in any way as police officers, but shouted profanities at Pltfs. to get out of the car while holding guns on them. Pltfs., fearing for their lives, remained in the car. Defts. testified that Papa appeared to assume a combat position, and they therefore opened fire. Defts. testified that only three bullets were fired (the exact number found in the vehicle), but one of them testified that he had actually pulled back to reload. Pltfs. were pulled from the car and were beaten and kicked. They were brought to the precinct and then to Central Booking and arraigned after spending 21/2 days in jail. They were charged with attempted murder, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, and other crimes. The case was dismissed after the Grand Jury refused to return an indictment.
Defts. contended that their actions were reasonable under the circumstances. Evidence showed that there had been a purse snatching in the neighborhood 6 days earlier (involving a small amount of money). The report of that incident included a description of the perpetrators as being one black man and one white man. Defts. further contended that they advised Pltfs. that they were police officers, and that Pltfs.’ actions in trying to escape the scene, and then refusing to get out of the car, gave them probable cause to make the arrest. They further contended that it appeared that Pltfs. may have had weapons. Pltfs. contended that Defts.’ actions were without justification whatsoever. They contended that Defts. did not identify themselves as police officers, and that it was in violation of police regulations to make a stop with an unmarked car occupied by plainclothes officers. A supervising police officer testified at Pltfs.’ Grand Jury hearing that it was “ridiculous” for the officers to make a stop under the circumstances. Pltfs. also argued that there was evidence of an immediate attempt at a cover-up. A P.B.A. representative showed up at the scene along with a P.B.A. lawyer who told the police officers that they should plead the Fifth Amendment when interrogated. Pltfs. also noted that the officers did not prepare a firearms report until months after the incident. The supervising sergeant who appeared at the scene testified that he picked up spent cartridges at the scene, bit could not recall what he did with them (note that the officers testified that only three shots were fired). One of the Deft. officers testified that he was told by the supervisor that he should charge Pltfs. with attempted murder.
Papa: dislocated shoulder; three fractured ribs; torn meniscus; concussion with organic brain dysfunction. Rampersant: cuts, bruises, and contusions. Emergency room treatment only. Rampersant also testified that he had three psychiatric visits as a result of psychological trauma.
In reducing the awards for shame, humiliation, and loss of future reputation to six cents, Judge Held noted that he was reaffirming the jury’s determination that a wrong had been committed, but no damages resulted because the trial resulted in a “complete vindication.” NYLJ, 4/26/90, p. 27. In addressing the issue of punitive damages, Judge Held found that Defts. had “compounded outrage upon outrage.” Id. He noted that the testimony reads like a “horror story that one cannot imagine as having taken place in the United States. Nonetheless, the [punitive damage awards] are both excessive and paradoxically not sufficient compensation for what plaintiffs had to go through.” Id. at p. 28.
Pltf. Experts: Dr. Eugene Goldberg, psychiatrist, Manhattan; Dr. Todd Feinberg, neurologist, Manhattan; Dr. Jonathan Kern, orth. surg., Manhattan. Deft. Expert: Dr. Paul Nassar, psychiatrist, Manhattan.