CASE #45 – Beriod v. LaFleur et al. (CA5)

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana and Foley Hoag recently filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Chance Beroid, an individual who was unlawfully shot with a Taser in his family’s home by officers of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana dismissed the complaint against Defendants Christopher LaFleur, Ferrol Leblanc and Naquan Senegal in full, finding all three defendants were entitled to qualified immunity. On appeal, Mr. Beroid argues this dismissal was in error for a number of reasons.

In its appellate brief, the ACLU of Louisiana and Foley Hoag argued, first, that the District Court applied the wrong legal standard at the motion to dismiss stage by crediting its own interpretation and characterization of the video footage attached to Mr. Beroid’s complaint over Mr. Beroid’s well-pleaded allegations. Specifically, citing Tucker v. City of Shreveport, the District Court concluded it could “view the facts in the light depicted by the videotape” and otherwise “characterize the events [itself] by viewing the video.” But Tucker nor its progeny supports those conclusions. As pointed out in Mr. Beroid’s appellate brief, those cases confirm that a court can credit video footage over a plaintiff’s version of events only when the plaintiff’s version is blatantly contradicted by the video, so that no reasonable jury could believe it – a standard that is not remotely satisfied in this case.

The ACLU of Louisiana and Foley Hoag next argued that the District Court’s failure to apply the correct legal standard infected all other aspects of its decision, ultimately leading it to conclude that (1) Defendants did not violate Mr. Beroid’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force; and (2) even if Defendants did so, they are shielded from liability for that constitutional violation under qualified immunity. As Mr. Beroid argues, however, had the District Court applied the appropriate standard it should have concluded both that Mr. Beroid pleaded a Fourth Amended violation and that qualified immunity did not apply. Indeed, the District Court even said so in its opinion:

“The ‘well pleaded facts’ of plaintiff’s complaint as outlined might, when considering the nuances of his actions as he describes them, paint a picture that, if accepted as true (as we must when considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)), might support a claim that the officers acted unreasonably or excessively and might, therefore, allow his claim to survive the motion.

Appellees’ opposition brief is due on January 4.

Mr. Beroid is represented by Nora Ahmed at the ACLU of Louisiana and the team of Peter Sullivan, John W.R. Murray, James M. Gross, Rachel L. Kerner, Ethan Severance, Howard Weiss, Shayonna Cato, and Hayley Allis at Foley Hoag.

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