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Dismissal of Police Liability Case.

April 27, 2015

Chelsea Winicki, of the Jacksonville office, received an Order Granting her Motion to Dismiss in a police liability case. The case involved 3 different Section 1983 Constitutional claims and 2 state law claims (malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress) against an FDLE Special Agent. The Special Agent was investigating the death of a lady in St. Augustine who died as the result of a gunshot wound to her mouth. The gun that was used to shoot her was the duty weapon belonging to her boyfriend who was (and still is) a sheriff’s deputy with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case and ruled the case a suicide. After repeated requests from the family, FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) was brought in to conduct an independent investigation. Our client, Special Agent Rusty Rodgers, spent months conducting the separate investigation, and evidence ultimately demonstrated the death may have been a homicide committed by the boyfriend, rather than a suicide. The death and investigation has gained national attention, including specials on Dateline and Frontline.

The boyfriend subsequently filed suit against the FDLE and against our client, the Special Agent. About a year ago, after removing the case to federal court, Chelsea filed a Motion to Dismiss all allegations against the Special Agent, arguing that Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action against the Special Agent, and, further, that the Special Agent was entitled to qualified immunity on the Section 1983 claims. After a year of waiting for a ruling, the Court’s Order was entered dismissing all 5 counts against the Special Agent, based on the Court’s finding that Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action for any of the counts. The dismissal was without prejudice, and Plaintiff will have some time to amend their Complaint. However, as the Complaint was dismissed only on the ground that Plaintiff failed to state a cause of action, the Court has not yet considered the qualified immunity argument which permits a dismissal with prejudice.

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