A federal appeals court in Louisiana decided last week that an officer can sue a protest organizer for injuries caused by another person during a 2016 protest in Baton Rouge.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 16 allowed an officer who filed anonymously to proceed in his suit alleging negligence against Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson. The court held that it’s plausible that Mckesson is liable for the officer’s injuries because they were a foreseeable consequence of his negligent planning: Mckesson planned to block a public highway — a crime in Louisiana — which made it likely that a violent confrontation with police would ensue, according to the 5th Circuit, Reuters reports.
The July 2016 demonstration took place outside the Baton Rouge Police Department in the aftermath of the killing of Alton Sterling. The plaintiff officer was injured during the demonstration when he was struck by a rock or a similar object thrown by an unidentified protester, according to the 5th Circuit ruling.
The police officer’s lawsuit was originally dismissed by a federal district court in 2017, before the 5th Circuit revived some claims two years later.
Mckesson then appealed to the Supreme Court, and the justices vacated the 5th Circuit’s ruling in 2020, saying the Louisiana high court needed to weigh in because of the “novelty of the claim at issue” in the case.
The 5th Circuit’s ruling came after the Louisiana high court held that state tort law allows protest organizers to be held responsible for the actions of other demonstrators.