University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Bell v. City of New York PN-NY-0024
Docket / Court 1:07-cv-02994-RLM ( E.D.N.Y. )
State/Territory New York
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On July 24, 2007, the fiancée of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man fatally shot by the police on the night before his wedding, and two men harmed during the shooting, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. sections 1981, 1983, 1985, ... read more >
On July 24, 2007, the fiancée of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old black man fatally shot by the police on the night before his wedding, and two men harmed during the shooting, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York under 42 U.S.C. sections 1981, 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988 against the City of New York and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel, asked the court for a jury trial and sought monetary damages.

On November 25, 2006, Sean Bell departed a strip club in Queens with two friends at 4:00AM. The three men climbed into a car and Bell proceeded to drive. The car allegedly struck a police detective in the leg and hit a police van before five officers began to shoot at the car, firing over 50 bullets. The shooting resulted in the death of Sean Bell, as well as serious personal injuries to the two passengers.

Bell's fiancé, as the adminstratrix of his estate, accused the police of wrongful death, assault, negligence and various civil rights violations. Specifically, she claimed that the police shot Bell without probable cause, that the shooting was performed negligently and recklessly, and that it was performed without reason or provocation. The NYPD's failure to adequately train these officers, combined with the officers' failure to observe existing police protocol, deprived the decedent of his Fourteenth Amendment privileges, namely: his right to due process of law, his right to liberty, his right to be free from excessive force, and most importantly, his right to life.

With him in the car were two of Bell's friends, who survived the shooting and were placed under arrest. These plaintiffs sustained severe physical injuries as a result of the shooting, and alleged that the officers lacked probable cause to discharge their weapons and similarly lacked probable cause to place them under arrest. Claiming that the shooting was performed negligently and recklessly, and without reason or provocation, the plaintiffs stated that the officers deprived them of their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, liberty, and the right to be free from physical injury and unwarranted use of force. The plaintiffs also asserted that they were subjected to false arrest and imprisonment. All plaintiffs in the suit sought compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages.

After negotiations, the plaintiffs and defendants reached a settlement agreement. The parties agreed to dismiss the action against the defendants, with prejudice, but without costs, expenses, or attorneys' fees to exceed: $3.25 million to the administratrix of Bell's estate, and $3 million and $900,000 respectively to Bell's two friends that were injured in the shooting. The plaintiffs additionally agreed to release the defendants from any and all liability or claims that could have been alleged in this particular action. On October 6, 2010, Judge Roanne L. Mann entered a stipulation of the settlement and order of dismissal.

Kayla Arslanian - 04/08/2014


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Excessive force
False arrest
Pattern or Practice
Personal injury
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
42 U.S.C. § 1983
42 U.S.C. § 1981
42 U.S.C. § 1985
Defendant(s) City of New York
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are the fiancée and two friends of Sean Bell, the decedent, who was fatally shot by police on his wedding day. Bell's two friends were also injured during the shooting.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted Moot
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Damages
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program )
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Panopticism for Police: Structural Reform Bargaining and Police Regulation by Data-Driven Surveillance
By: Mary D. Fan (University of Washington)
Citation: Forthcoming, 87 Washington L. Rev. __ (2012).
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Written: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
07-cv-2994 (E.D.N.Y.) 06/03/2013
PN-NY-0024-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint 07/24/2007
PN-NY-0024-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulation of Settlement and Order of Dismissal 10/06/2010
PN-NY-0024-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Mann, Roanne L. (E.D.N.Y.) [Magistrate]
PN-NY-0024-0002 | PN-NY-0024-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hardy, Michael (New York)
PN-NY-0024-0001
Rynecki, Scott (New York)
PN-NY-0024-0001 | PN-NY-0024-0002 | PN-NY-0024-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Hazan, David M. (New York)
PN-NY-0024-9000
Moschella, James (New York)
PN-NY-0024-0002 | PN-NY-0024-9000
Naughton, Karen (New York)
PN-NY-0024-9000
Rosencrantz, Caryn (New York)
PN-NY-0024-0002 | PN-NY-0024-9000
Signorelli, Richard (New York)
PN-NY-0024-0002 | PN-NY-0024-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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