PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (August 3, 2016) – The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion today that cleared the path for the Camberdella family to continue their pursuit for justice on behalf of Michael Camberdella, a mentally ill 18-year-old, who was shot and killed by a Palm Beach County Sherriff (PBSO) Deputy. The opinion repudiated Deputy William Goldstein’s claim that the Southern District Court erred when it denied his motion for summary judgment on the grounds of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity prevents citizens from suing the police if the officers’ actions did not violate a clearly established constitutional right. In the opinion, The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s ruling that there was sufficient evidence Deputy Goldstein used lethal force “when Michael was neither resisting or fleeing and no longer posed a risk of harm to Deputy Goldstein or the public.”
On October 4, 2012, Linda Camberdella called 911 requesting aid for her son who was diagnosed with autism and suffered from a series of mental health issues. She made it clear to the operator that her son required professional help to ensure he did not pose a threat to himself or others. Deputy Goldstein arrived on the scene, and despite warnings that Michael was mentally disabled, failed to defuse the situation by following proper police techniques, ordering backup or requesting professional assistance from a Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T). Instead, Deputy Goldstein applied excessive deadly force, spraying the neighborhood with 11 bullets and killing Camberdella, who, according to witness accounts, was unarmed and posed no threat to the officer or the public.
“This opinion is critical to the preservation of our civil justice system, and reaffirms our seventh amendment right to a trial by jury. Law enforcement and government bear the grave responsibility of protecting our citizens, and must be equipped with the power to do so effectively. But, when that power is abused and that fundamental purpose is lost, the only recourse for the injustice is in the courts,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Sean C. Domnick, a shareholder at Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa.
The Appeals Court declined to reweigh the facts of the case, affirming the District Court’s decision that sufficient facts supported the plaintiff’s cause of action and right to a trial by jury. The civil case, which was stayed, pending the decision from the Court of Appeals, can now proceed against Deputy Goldstein and Sheriff Ric Bradshaw once a trial date is set.
Domnick Cunningham & Yaffa is a national civil litigation firm based in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The firm specializes in complex litigation including catastrophic personal injury, medical malpractice, nursing home abuse, trucking, and bad faith litigation. For more information, visit www.dcwlaw.com or call 561-462-5348.
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