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B.B. v. County of Los Angeles

471 P.3d 329 (2020)

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B.B. v. County of Los Angeles

California Supreme Court

471 P.3d 329 (2020)

Facts

On August 3, 2012, deputies of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (defendants) responded to a report of an assault. At the scene, the deputies saw Darren Burley, a Black man, acting erratically and aggressively. When Burley failed to respond to their orders, the deputies wrestled him to the ground. Deputy David Aviles (defendant) pinned Burley to the ground by pressing one knee into Burley’s back, at the top of his diaphragm, and the other knee at the back of Burley’s neck. Aviles used as much pressure as possible, and Burley was seen gasping for air and struggling to raise his chest. Other officers at the scene hit Burley in the head, tased him, knelt on his legs, and wrapped a cord around his ankles to prevent him from standing. Paramedics arrived at the scene and attempted to help Burley, who was unresponsive and had no pulse. Burley remained unconscious and died 10 days later. Burley’s cause of death was brain death caused by lack of oxygen. Burley’s family (the family) (plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against the county of Los Angeles (defendant) and the officers, bringing claims for battery, negligence, and wrongful death. At trial, the jury found that Aviles committed battery by using unreasonable force against Burley, and that he was 20 percent responsible for Burley’s death. The jury also found that, due to negligence, Burley was 40 percent responsible for his own death and the other officers were responsible for the remaining 40 percent. The jury awarded the family $8 million in noneconomic damages and assigned all those damages to Aviles because he had committed the intentional tort of battery. The court of appeal reversed, holding that, under § 1431.2 of the California Civil Code and the doctrine of comparative fault, Aviles could only be responsible for his proportionate share of the noneconomic damages.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Chin, J.)

Concurrence (Liu, J.)

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