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Case of the Month April 2017
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Case of the Month April 2017

Improper Strip Search Returns $1.99M

Newman v. Vagnini

Case Type:
Civil Rights & Constitutional Law - Search & Seizure
Vicarious Liability

Specific Liability:
Police officers conducted strip search in public parking lot

General Injury:
Emotional distress

Jurisdiction:
State: Wisconsin
Court: United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin.

Related Court Documents:
Verdict form: 2016 WL 8116833

Case Name:
Willie James Newman v. Michael Vagnini, Jeffrey Cline, aul Martinez, and City of Milwaukee

Docket/File Number:
2:15CV01363

Result Amount:
$1,995,000


Result Date:
November 23, 2016

Judge:
J.P. Stadtmueller

Attorneys:
Plaintiff: Ronald Bornstein, Bornstein Law Offices S.C., Milwaukee, WI
Defendants: Grant F. Langley, City Attorney - Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI; Susan E. Lappen, Assistant City Attorney - Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI

Result Type:
Jury Trial

Experts:
Plaintiff: Not reported
Defendant: Not reported

Breakdown of Award:
$150,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Vagnini for an unreasonable search
$60,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Cline for failure to intervene
$60,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Martinez for failure to intervene
$1,125,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Vagnini for punitive damages
$200,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Cline for punitive damages
$400,000.00 to plaintiff from defendant Martinez for punitive damages

Summary of Facts:
Willie Newman was reportedly seated in a parked car in a parking lot when Milwaukee police officers Michael Vagnini, Jeffrey Cline and Paul Martinez approached his vehicle. Vagnini allegedly drew his firearm and ordered Newman to raise his hands, handcuffed him and then pulled Newman's pants and underwear down to his knees in front of onlookers. Vagnini reportedly used his bare hands to search Newman's genitalia and discovered a bag containing marijuana.

Newman filed a lawsuit against the police officers and the City of Milwaukee. The plaintiff asserted a claim of unreasonable search and seizure, failure to intervene against Cline and Martinez, and municipal liability against the City of Milwaukee. He sought compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendants denied an unlawful search was conducted and contended the plaintiff failed to complain to either of his two probation and parole agents or his criminal defense attorney about an unlawful search.

A jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages in the total amount of $1,995,000.

Court: United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin.

Westlaw Citation:
2016 WL 8235209


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