A federal lawsuit against three white police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, accused of beating a handcuffed black man and then complaining that the man's blood dirtied their uniforms can go forward, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit said that the district court in St Louis erred in dismissing the claims of Henry Davis who was beaten by police in a jail cell following a September 2009 arrest, according to court records.
The ruling comes as the St Louis suburb of Ferguson is trying to rebuild both its police force and its image one year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
That August 9, 2014, shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson triggered months of protests around the St. Louis area, and helped fuel protests over police treatment of minorities in other US cities nationwide. Brown's death also prompted a scathing US Department of Justice critique of Ferguson's police department.
In the lawsuit, Davis named the city of Ferguson and three police officers as defendants. He claimed that the officers beat and kicked him even though he was subdued and handcuffed and that one of the officers later filed false complaints that Davis had committed "property damage" for blood that got on the officers' uniforms.
Davis had been stopped for speeding on September 20, 2009, and was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Court records state that when the police officers transferred Davis into a jail cell, he resisted and a fight ensued. One of the police officers suffered a broken nose while Davis suffered a concussion and a scalp laceration.
Davis filed suit in 2010. A lower court dismissed his claims, including the claim that the three officers used excessive force.
But the appeals court ruling on Tuesday disagreed and reversed the dismissal of claims of excessive force and state law assault and battery claims.
The court let stand, however, the dismissal of Davis' complaints that the police erred in charging him with property damage for the blood on their uniforms.
Davis' attorney James Schottel Jr said he was pleased with the court ruling and would pursue a settlement with the city or retry the case.
"I'm pretty happy with the results," Schottel said.
A lawyer representing the city and the police officers did not respond to a request for comment.
© Thomson Reuters 2015