A civil lawsuit against a city or police department for damages can be mired with potential pitfalls, but the experienced civil rights attorneys at Miller Law Group can help you navigate this complex area of law.
One of the most significant hurdles in civil rights claims against cities and police departments is establishing municipality liability. While these local government entities are considered “persons” subject to suit under § 1983, they are only liable for their own unconstitutional or illegal policies. Municipalities cannot be held liable solely for the actions of their agents or employees under a respondeat superior theory.
A local governmental entity is not liable for the unconstitutional acts of its employees unless those acts were the result of an official policy or custom. A policy can be as overt as an actual city ordinance or can be inferred from a municipality’s omission, if that omission is tantamount to tacit authorization or deliberate indifference. Mere negligent inaction is insufficient. However, systemic inadequate training of officers can rise to the level of deliberate indifference and establish a policy for municipality liability.
There can also be a custom, which—unlike an official policy—arises from the municipality’s employees, rather than its decision makers. For example, if pervasive misconduct is occurring among a municipality’s employees, and senior officials know of, yet disregard these violations, a custom may exist for municipality liability.
While these standards can be complex, the experienced civil rights lawyers at Miller Law Group can help you hold the government accountable, with offices in North Carolina, Washington D.C., and South Carolina. If you have been harmed by a local government official, contact Miller Law Group today at (919) 348-4361 for a free consultation.