NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Criminals Who Sue For Damages

February 23, 2000

No doubt most law-abiding Americans look on in shocked dismay as the media reports criminals or their families suing cities and other jurisdictions for injuries inflicted on the law-breakers as police battled them.

Even more outrageous are the instances where the criminals win in court. Litigation expert Walter Olson comments that "you can leave a lot more money to your heirs as a criminal than you could if you avoided a life of crime."

Here are a few examples:

  • The family of bank robber Emil Matasareanu is suing the city of Los Angeles for unspecified damages because the police did not administer speedy medical care to the dying man after he and an accomplice were shot during a 44-minute gun fight -- in which 11 officers and half-a-dozen civilians were hurt.
  • In the Cascade Mountains of Washington, a mountain-man burglar who was also an escaped murderer from Bulgaria won a $412,500 settlement against Snohomish County because a police dog bit him in the foot while he was casing vacation cabins.
  • In New York, Bernard McCummings won a $4.8 million settlement after police shot him in the back as he was running away from his mugging of a 71-year-old victim.

Experts point out that this litigation free-for-all not only costs taxpayers money, it chills Good Samaritan behavior. Why would a doctor, a police officer or even an ordinary citizen render assistance when their help might lead to costly litigation?

Source: Editorial, "Litigation Lunacy Runs Amok," Investor's Business Daily, February 23, 2000.


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