Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Sides against Cities on Raids

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Court Sides against Cities on Raids

Article excerpt

Cities may not be exempt from claims for property damage resulting from police raids if the police fail to give proper notice, because under such circumstances execution of a search warrant would be unlawful, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held Tuesday.

However, such damage is not a "taking" of private property for public use, which requires compensation under the Oklahoma Constitution, the court held.

The case involves a claim brought against Oklahoma City and The Village for damage to an apartment unit owned by Howard R. Sullivant. According to the court's opinion, written by Justice Robert Simms, while executing a search warrant, police from the two cities damaged three doors of an apartment during a raid which yielded evidence of drug activity by the tenants. Damage totaled $718. Sullivant's claims were denied by both cities, and he filed suit in Oklahoma County District Court. At trial, the apartment owner asserted alternate theories of recovery: that the cities were liable for damages under the Governmental Tort Claims Act or that the damage constituted an improper "taking" of private property under the Oklahoma Constitution. Oklahoma County District Judge Charles Humble granted summary judgment for the cities, which was upheld by the Court of Civil Appeals. Simms said the "taking" issue presents a question of first impression for the high court. Under the tort claims act, a city is liable only for losses resulting from the tortious acts of its employees acting within the scope of their employment, subject to certain limitations and exceptions. Oklahoma City and Village officials say their cities are not liable for Sullivant's loss under an exception for losses stemming from "execution or enforcement of the lawful orders of any court" and "entry upon any property where that entry is expressly or impliedly authorized by law. …

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