In one notable case handled by Budge & Heipt, we represented the victim of restraint-related asphyxia by members of the Seattle Police Department. The incident arose when police officers confronted a mentally ill man at his apartment. Instead of using crisis intervention techniques, police quickly escalated the situation—eventually resulting in numerous officers piling on the man and holding him down, prone (face down) on the ground. As in any situation where police place weight on the back of a prone person, breathing can be impaired, leading to a substantial risk of suffocation or asphyxia. But even after taking control of the man, the police continued to use force. Among other things, they used a spit hood over the man’s hood—a potentially dangerous practice, particularly as the man was bleeding from the face.
Eventually, the man’s inability to breathe caused him to go into cardiac arrest, resulting in a substantial brain injury. Our excessive force lawsuit enabled us to gather additional information surrounding the force used on the man—we deposed the police officers under oath, hired experts to analyze the spit hood, located eyewitnesses not mentioned in the police reports, and eventually settled the case for a then-record settlement of $1.75 million.
In another case, the attorneys at Budge & Heipt represented the estate of a man who died after a confrontation with police in a small town. Police responded to a report of a man acting strangely in a grocery store parking lot. Eventually, police “hog-tied” the man—a potentially dangerous and risky practice. He was transported to the local jail, placed face down on the floor, and eventually stopped moving. Despite this, the door was closed, and officers left. He was later found dead. With the help of retained experts, and through thorough depositions of the involved officers and others, we successfully pursued a lawsuit that resulted in a settlement of $1.6 million.