Fijalkowski v. Wheeler

Police are entitled to qualified immunity as to the plaintiff’s claim that they exacerbated a dangerous situation – namely, the plaintiff’s psychotic episode in which he submerged himself underwater at the pool where he worked.
Under the state-created danger doctrine, the police’s order to another lifeguard not to attempt a rescue for over two minutes violated no clearly established substantive due process right of the plaintiff. An officer’s efforts to enable a third party to commit a violent act have been recognized as a state-created danger; temporary inhibition of a would-be rescuer in an unpredictable, emergency situation is distinguishable. And officers’ conduct was not so patently wrong that any reasonable officer in the same position would have known it was unconstitutional. Therefore, qualified immunity applies.
In addition, because the plaintiff wasn’t in police custody when he submerged himself underwater, officers didn’t violate his substantive due process rights by failing to prevent him from going into the pool when he was having a psychotic episode.
The plaintiff’s claim of gross negligence under Virginia law must be dismissed because the officers’ actions, as alleged, didn’t amount to indifference or complete neglect of the plaintiff’s safety. In fact, they took many steps to help him despite delaying retrieving him from the pool.
Finally, the plaintiff’s claims for injuries by accident arising out of his employment as a lifeguard must be remedied under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act and, thus, must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.
Motions to dismiss granted.

Fijalkowski v. Wheeler, No. 1:18cv492, Feb. 12, 2019. EDVA at Alexandria (Ellis).

Categories: Opinions, U.S. District Court - Eastern District of Virginia

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