San Diego seeks to overturn $85 million reward in sheriff’s restraint case

San Diego County attorneys are seeking to clear an $85million jury award from the family of the man who died after being restrained by sheriff’s deputies in 2015

SAN DIEGO — San Diego County attorneys are seeking to clear an $85 million jury award from the family of the man who died after he was restrained by sheriff’s deputies in 2015, or seek a new trial in the trial that generated the case.

The county’s attorneys argue that the verdict stemming from the negligence and wrongful death suit was “incurably tainted with errors” and that the trial was riddled with rulings that damaged the county’s case.

The claim is detailed in motions filed in U.S. District Court in San Diego earlier this month by county attorneys. These are the first steps in what will likely be a long fight to reduce or completely overturn the March 15 verdict in favor of Lucky Phounsy’s family.

A motion asks U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Huff to overturn the verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to support the jury’s conclusion, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. A second asks for a new trial or a reduction of the sum, arguing that there were a series of trial errors and that the amount awarded was excessive.

Phounsy, 32, died after being hogtied, shocked with a stun gun and restrained by San Diego Sheriff’s Department deputies at the home of a Santee relative on April 13, 2015. Phounsy’s heart s stopped on the way to the hospital. He was resuscitated, but died a few days later.

The county medical examiner concluded that his death was accidental and the result of a long struggle with deputies, combined with the effects of ecstasy he had taken several days previously.

But the family’s lawyers disputed that finding and argued that the deputies’ conduct caused him to choke to death.

They pointed out that deputies tied Phunsy’s hands and ankles, failed to monitor his vital signs and continued to restrain him when a deputy forcefully held his head down while he was in an ambulance.

The case was tried twice in federal court. In September, a jury is deadlocked and cannot decide. In a second trial held in March, after just a day of deliberation, the jury found the county liable and awarded Phunsy’s family $85 million.

The family’s attorneys have yet to file their arguments against the county’s motions. In a statement, attorneys Mark Fleming and Timothy Scott said the county still escaped responsibility for Phunsy’s death.

“The repeated arguments raised by the county have already been dismissed ‘by the courts on multiple occasions,'” Scott said. Fleming said the attempt to reduce the award of the money disrespects ‘both the value of Lucky’s life and the enormity of his loss to his family, as well as the hard work and careful consideration of the jury.

ABC News

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