(CN) – The 7th Circuit said it can’t retroactively enforce a judgment for the estate of an Indiana man who, after being picked up for drunk driving, was beaten by officers and left for dead in the jail’s drunk tank.
Christopher Moreland’s beating and subsequent denial of medical care in 1997 “spanned multiple floors of the jail, lasted several hours, and was ruthless,” Judge Dow wrote.
“Moreland was physically restrained for much of the incident. Ultimately, he was placed (unconscious) into the jail’s ‘drunk tank’ and left for dead.”
Moreland’s estate filed a massive civil rights action against St. Joseph County and the offending officers. A jury found two officers liable for $56.5 million in damages, $29 million of which were compensatory.
More than a year after the verdict, and about 10 months after the county stopped paying legal bills, a state amendment required government entities to defend any employees accused of misconduct. The amendment applied to non-punitive damages only.
Moreland’s estate filed a motion to enforce the judgment, claiming the 2003 amendment required St. Joseph County to pay the $29 million in compensatory damages for which the officers were found liable.
The district court dismissed the motion, and the Chicago-based appeals court affirmed.
The state law the estate wanted to invoke “was not intended to apply retroactively,” Judge Dow held.