Sunday, November 24, 2013

Scott v. Harris case brief

Scott v. Harris case brief summary
550 U.S. 372 (2007)

Respondent driver filed suit under 42 U.S.C.S. § 1983 alleging, inter alia, the use of excessive force resulting in an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. A district court denied petitioner deputy's summary judgment motion, which was based on qualified immunity. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed on interlocutory appeal. The deputy's petition for writ of certiorari was granted.

The deputy terminated a high-speed pursuit of the driver's car by applying his push bumper to the rear of the vehicle, causing it to leave the road and crash. The driver was rendered quadriplegic. The court of appeals took the driver's view of the facts as given.


  • The Supreme Court found that a videotape capturing the events in question quite clearly contradicted the version of the story told by the driver and adopted by the court of appeals. 
  • The court of appeals should have viewed the facts in the light depicted by the videotape. 
  • The deputy did not contest that his decision to terminate the car chase by ramming his bumper into the driver's vehicle constituted a "seizure." 
  • A police officer's attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatened the lives of innocent bystanders did not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it placed the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death. 
  • The car chase that the driver initiated posed a substantial and immediate risk of serious physical injury to others. 
  • The deputy's attempt to terminate the chase by forcing the driver off the road was reasonable, and the deputy was entitled to summary judgment.
The court of appeals' decision was reversed.

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