Posts Tagged ‘Bill Ostling’

This morning in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, attorneys for the City of Bainbridge Island and the family of Douglas Ostling argued the city’s post-trial motions before Judge Ronald Leighton.

In June, a jury awarded $1 million to Bill and Joyce Ostling whose son, Douglas, was shot and killed in 2010 by Bainbridge police officer, Jeff Benkert. The jury found that Benkert did not violate Ostling’s constitutional rights, but nevertheless awarded $1 million against the city for failure to train its officers in dealing with the mentally ill.

The city filed a motion asking Judge Leighton to enter a Judgment as a Matter of Law (which would set aside the jury’s verdict because it was not valid under the law). In a second motion, the city asked for a new trial for former police chief Jon Fehlman, because he was unable to attend trial and testify on his own behalf after he was hospitalized with pancreatitis.

Judge Leighton told the lawyers to focus primarily on the first motion in oral argument, questioning whether Fehlman “plays a role in this at all.” He later elaborated on that statement, saying that Fehlman was “in effect a placeholder” who acted in his official capacity on behalf of the city. Ostling attorney Nathan Roberts agreed, saying Fehlman’s absence from trial didn’t matter because the eventual judgment “will never be against his personal assets.” Roberts suggested that because the city appointed Lt. Phil Hawkins as acting police chief during the trial while Fehlman was ill, Hawkins would have been available to testify and should perhaps have been on the verdict form instead of Fehlman. (more…)

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On Friday, a jury awarded $1 million to the family of Douglas OstlingOstling was a mentally ill man who was shot and killed by Bainbridge Island police officer Jeff Benkert after Benkert and Officer Dave Portrey responded to a 911 call at the Ostling home.

The jury found that Officer Jeff Benkert did not conduct an unreasonable search the night of the shooting. They also found that Benkert did not use excessive force or unreasonably fail to render medical aid to Ostling.

The jury found, however, that the City of Bainbridge Island and police chief Jon Fehlman failed to properly train the city’s police officers in dealing with the mentally ill, and awarded $1 million for that failure. Ostling’s parents, Joyce and Bill Ostling, were each awarded $400,000 and the estate of Douglas Ostling was awarded $200,000. Fehlman and the City will be indemnified by the City’s insurance pool.  (more…)

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