Civil rights are the rights that protect your basic human liberties against government harassment, and which also allow you to live your life without discrimination or oppression. These rights are guaranteed by the United States Constitution, the Georgia Constitution, and various federal and state laws. When your civil rights are violated, you have the right to file a lawsuit seeking justice and compensation for your injuries.
Civil rights litigation is difficult work, however. It is very hard to sue the government because the government makes the rules and, of course, they do not hold themselves to the same standards as the rest of us. What this means in practice is that civil rights actions have high bars for holding government actors responsible when they injure our citizens, and very complex procedural rules – and if you do not follow those rules perfectly, you risk having your case dismissed.
The lawyers at Eshman Begnaud have years of experience successfully litigating a wide range of civil rights lawsuits, and we can guide your case past these hurdles. We have actively litigated over three dozen federal civil right lawsuits on the plaintiff and defense side, recovering over $4.5 million for our clients in civil rights actions.
We understand the intricacies of claims of immunity (such as qualified, official, 11th Amendment, sovereign, and prosecutorial immunities), navigating the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Heck v. Humphrey litigation bars, ante litem notice, determining the proper entity to sue, and properly handling all of the various roadblocks to civil recovery.
We also work together with referring lawyers on these cases to offer our clients the best team of lawyers possible to litigate their case. For lawyers considering referring a case for further investigation, we can screen your cases for the following:
- Potential for immunity or procedural bar to recovery. What looks like a great case on its face can run into trouble when it buts up against qualified immunity or official immunity, or a PLRA or Heck-bar. Did you know that police officers cannot be sued under federal law unless they violate a “clearly established” federal right (an increasingly narrow test in the Eleventh Circuit) and cannot be sued under Georgia law unless they act with actual malice, an obscenely high bar. These and other protections make it difficult and complex to navigate civil rights cases, and we will review your facts to determine whether there is a pathway to liability and, if so, the relative likelihood of surviving a motion to dismiss or summary judgment.
- Potential for Recovery. As with liability, what looks like a great case may not have an entity able to pay a judgment. Generally speaking, there is no vicarious liability for civil rights actions, so the only party to be sued is the individual officer or government actor who committed the civil rights violation. Sometimes there is insurance coverage that will come into play, but often there are coverage exclusions that prohibit recovery. Sometimes there is a way to establish liability against the government entity (city, county, state, sheriff’s office) through an immunity waiver such as the Georgia Tort Claims Act or Federal Tort Claims Act, supervisory liability, or municipal “Monell” liability. We will review your case at the outset to determine the likelihood of being able to collect a judgment.
- Extent of injury. Civil rights cases often have unique damages pictures, where the damage cannot be captured easily by looking at medical billing figures, or where the injured citizen has a unique profile (e.g. inmate serving a life sentence). We have experience valuing non-economic injuries and injuries in custodial settings, and we can bring that experience to bear in helping assess your case.
- Illegal Arrest/False Arrest/False Imprisonment
- Malicious Prosecution
- Illegal Search
- Excessive Force
- Prison Conditions
- Deliberate Indifference
- First Amendment Retaliation
- Failure to Protect
- Supervisory Liability
- Class Action Civil Rights
- Medical Malpractice
For further details please contact us directly by phone or e-mail.