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Moonlighting Officer Chokes Teen

Sixteen-year-old L.C. went to a concert at a venue owned and operated by a company that contracted with a township to provide off duty police officers for crowd and traffic control. After the concert, L.C. went to meet a person who was to give her a ride home. L.C. alleged that when she saw the car that was to take her home she ran across several lanes of traffic. The driver pulled into a lane designated as a fire lane, and L.C. quickly entered the car. L.C. alleged that a police officer working security for the concert yelled to L.C. to “get out of the fire lane.” The officer allegedly approached the car, began pounding on the window, and forcibly removed L.C. from the vehicle. L.C. was allegedly placed in a violent choke hold by the officer, who then detained her and charged her with disorderly conduct.

L.C. sued the venue owner and others who were involved in the incident for violation of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment, vicarious liability, and negligent hiring and supervision.

The venue owner filed a motion for summary judgment and argued that it was not the officer’s employer, nor was it a state actor; therefore, the venue owner could not be held liable for the officer’s actions under a theory of respondent superior.

The trial court granted the venue’s motion for summary judgment. L.C. appealed. The federal appeals court affirmed the trial court’s ruling, and held that the venue owner is entitled to summary judgment. The appeals court held that the venue owner could not be liable under the contract between the venue and the township for the officer’s actions because the venue was not a joint actor with the officers when they were performing their duties of crowd and traffic control. The appeals court noted that at all times during the event the officers involved retained their autonomy as township police officers while working at the concert. Because the venue was not a state actor, L.C.’s constitutional claims failed.

Generally, a concert promoter and venue owner that contracts with a county for police services for events will not be liable for any injuries caused by officers who perform their official duties.


Security Law Newsletter, published monthly by Strafford Publications, Atlanta, GA.,, 800-926-7926, ext. 10, Cahill v. Live Nation, No. 11-4056, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, Jan. 31, 2013.)

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