A jury awarded $239,000 Friday to a former Baton Rouge resident who claims he suffered a ruptured bladder in 2007 when a then-city police officer, who is now in federal prison, allegedly kicked him while handcuffed at a Highland Road police substation.
After deliberating for more than three hours, the jury found that Nathan Davis used excessive force on Brian Townsend by pepper-spraying him, but jurors did not find that Davis kicked Townsend.
In a videotaped deposition played for the jury during the week-long trial of Townsend’s lawsuit against Davis and the city-parish, Davis admitted pepper-spraying Townsend but denied kicking him.
Jurors also determined that Davis’ actions did not occur during the course and scope of his employment, meaning the city-parish is not liable for the damages awarded to Townsend. City-parish attorneys had argued that Davis’ actions were not something he was trained to do.
“It’s a successful outcome for city-parish government,” Assistant Parish Attorney James Hilburn said outside state District Judge Todd Hernandez’s courtroom.
Davis’ attorney, Henry Olinde Jr., said Davis — who is serving a federal prison term of more than six years for violating Townsend’s civil rights — owes the money from a legal standpoint.
“I wish he (Townsend) has a wonderful life,” Olinde added.
Townsend’s stunned attorneys pledged to file post-trial motions.
“We’re disappointed the jury somehow found Nathan Davis didn’t kick Brian Townsend,” Henri Saunders, one of Townsend’s attorneys, said.
Saunders, however, said he is pleased the jury found that Davis violated Townsend’s constitutional rights and awarded “significant” damages.
“At the end of the day, Nathan Davis knows he kicked me,” a disappointed Townsend added.
The jury awarded Townsend $160,000 for general pain and suffering; $32,000 for medical expenses; $30,000 for loss of enjoyment of life; and $17,000 for lost wages.
The jury declined to award punitive damages to Townsend.
Townsend’s attorneys had asked the jury to award him $750,000 in general damages on top of any punitive damages, which are meant to punish conduct.
Townsend, who now lives in Texas, testified Thursday he was intoxicated and being a “smart aleck” at the substation but said his conduct did not justify him allegedly being kicked by Davis, who had been on the police force for four years.
Aidan Reynolds, who also represents Townsend, argued to the jury Friday there was “overwhelming” evidence that Davis “brutalized, pepper-sprayed and kicked” a “defenseless” Townsend.
“Brian Townsend was no threat to Nathan Davis,” he said.
Reynolds called Davis a “pathological” liar.
Olinde urged the jury Friday to look at “the big picture” and said, “We wouldn’t be here if not for Brian Townsend.” Olinde said Townsend did not follow police officers’ orders when they came to his Highland Creek Parkway residence at about 3 a.m. on March 4, 2007, in response to an anonymous noise complaint.
Townsend and his then-fiancée were hosting a going-away party for a friend. Olinde said Townsend was belligerent and uncooperative. Townsend testified he was tackled by the officers just outside his front door.
Olinde also stressed there were no witnesses to the alleged kick in the substation. Former Officer Nicholas Batiste, who was with Davis that night at the residence and substation, testified he heard a thumping noise at the station after Davis rushed into a holding room where Townsend was handcuffed.
Batiste said he heard Townsend yell that he had been kicked.
Townsend’s misdemeanor charges for a noise violation and resisting arrest were eventually dismissed, and Davis was fired from the Police Department.