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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Oct. 29, 2001, Bob Meadours’ sister Katie Raterink contacted 911 to request mental health assistance for Meadours. Meadours’ mental state had steadily deteriorated following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. During the week before Raterink’s call, Meadours had a mental episode, according to Raterink. During that episode, Meadours was paranoid and delusional and thought his neighbors were “out to get him.” In the days and hours leading up to Raterink’s 911 call, Meadours’ behavior had become increasingly bizarre, and Meadours believed that if his feet touched the ground while the sun was out, he would die. In her call, Raterink requested mental health assistance for her brother. Raterink informed the dispatcher that Meadours had “flipped out” and that she did not know what he was going to do. Authorities dispatched city of La Porte police officers Jeffrey Dalton and Steven M. Martin, along with one EMS unit. Officer Jeffrey N. Kominek and Sergeant Stephen R. Ermel also responded. The officers and the EMS unit contacted Raterink at the edge of Meadours’ neighborhood and talked with her for seven to eight minutes. During that conversation Raterink informed the officers about some of Meadours’ paranoid and delusional behavior, and she requested that he be treated. She also warned the officers that Meadours was a large and strong man, that he possessed a number of tools that could be used as weapons and that Meadours feared the possibility of being involuntarily hospitalized. In her deposition, Raterink stated that she informed the officers of Meadours’ size only so they would not be surprised by his large frame and hurt him. After the officers spoke with Raterink, they decided to contact Meadours and secure the scene before allowing the EMS unit to approach him. As the officers neared the house, the interior and exterior house lights went dark. Dalton and Martin approached the front door while Kominek walked around the side of the house to the back yard. As Kominek entered the back yard he observed Meadours sitting in a swing wearing between four and six baseball caps and a tool belt with a stuffed animal attached to it. Kominek claims he stated, “Hello, Bob, Police Department.” Shortly thereafter, Meadours stood up, and Kominek stated he could see that Meadours was holding “a large screwdriver,” later identified as being 10 and three-fourths inches long. At this point, Martin and Dalton joined Kominek in the back yard. The officers claim they repeatedly commanded Meadours to drop the screwdriver. Meadours refused, and Martin radioed Ermel to join them and bring a beanbag shotgun. Ermel entered the back yard and observed Meadours with the screwdriver. The officers claim that Meadours’ behavior became increasingly aggressive and that he began kicking something attached to the ground. The officers testified that they felt that Meadours was a threat to himself and others and that they could not simply leave or allow Meadours to leave. After Meadours again refused to drop his weapon, Ermel claims that he instructed two officers to prepare to subdue Meadours and one officer to cover him as he fired the beanbag shotgun. Ermel then fired one beanbag round that struck Meadours in the upper thigh area. In response, Meadours ran and jumped over a fence into a dog pen and climbed atop a doghouse, retaining possession of the screwdriver. Dalton, Martin and Kominek followed Meadours into the pen. The officers again ordered Meadours to drop his weapon, and he again refused. Ermel shot Meadours with a second beanbag round but Meadours remained atop the doghouse with the screwdriver. Ermel says that he fired a third beanbag round that knocked Meadours off the doghouse. Meador’s survivors, however, claim that a bullet knocked Meadours from the doghouse. Meadours began to run toward a door leading to the garage with the screwdriver held in what the officers describe as a stabbing grip. According to the officers, Kominek was standing near that door, and they felt that Meadours was charging at Kominek with the screwdriver. Responding to the perceived threat, Dalton, Kominek and Martin stated they repeatedly fired their service weapons, each a different caliber, killing Meadours. A total of 23 shots were fired, with 14 striking Meadours, although the shooting lasted only a few seconds. Meadours’ survivors brought a 42 U.S.C. �1983 claim against the city of La Porte and the officers, alleging that the officers violated Meadours’ constitutional rights by subjecting him to excessive force. The plaintiffs also brought state law claims against the officers for gross negligence, assault and battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Additionally, Raterink brought a claim for bystander recovery. After extensive discovery, all defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the city of La Porte’s motion. The court also granted the officers’ motion with regard to Raterink’s bystander liability claim. The district court denied summary judgment to the officers on qualified immunity grounds, because a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether they used unreasonable force. Lastly, the court denied the officers’ motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ state law claims. The officers timely appealed. HOLDING:Affirmed and remanded for a trial on the merits. As a threshold matter, the officers argued that in determining the applicability of qualified immunity, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should consider the conduct of each officer independently. The district court, however, analyzed the officers’ actions collectively, because it found they acted in unison. Even accepting a factual finding that the officers acted in unison, the court held that the district court erred in considering the officers’ actions collectively. The court stated that it consistently examines the actions of defendants individually in the qualified immunity context; thus, it declined to break from that precedent. On remand, the court instructed the district court to consider the officers’ actions separately. Next, the court stated that the denial of a motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity is reviewable through an interlocutory appeal. In reviewing such appeals, however, the court noted that it only has jurisdiction to review questions of law, “not consider the correctness of the plaintiff’s version of the facts.” In other words, the court stated that it may only review the district court’s conclusion that issues of fact are material but not the conclusion that those issues of fact are genuine. The court noted the district court’s conclusion that genuine issues of material fact existed regarding the reasonableness of the force used by the officers. The court stated that it lacked jurisdiction to review whether those issues of fact were genuine. But the court had jurisdiction to review whether the disputed issues were material to the qualified-immunity analysis. The court examined the two-prong analysis of qualified immunity to determine materiality. Under a qualified-immunity analysis, a trial court must first determine “whether a constitutional right has been violated based on the facts Plaintiffs have alleged.” Second, it must determine “whether the officers’ conduct was objectively reasonable in light of”clearly established’ law at the time of the alleged violation.” Regarding the first prong, the court noted that the survivors alleged that the officers violated Meadours’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force. An excessive force claim requires a showing that the use of excessive force was objectively unreasonable. Because of the need to resolve factual disputes before determining the reasonableness of the officers’ actions and whether they used excessive force, the court held that the factual disputes cited by the district court were material. Finally, the court found that Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code �101.106(a) did not bar the survivors’ state-law tort claims. OPINION:DeMoss, J.; Reavley, DeMoss and Benavides, J.J.

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