Last updated: 8 months ago
A state appeals court increased the damage award to $1.82 million Wednesday to the family of a woman who was shot to death by a Union City police officer as she wielded a knife.
Lucilla Amaya's brother called police to their home in March 1998, saying the 35-year-old woman was screaming, on drugs and threatening to harm herself. Police Cpl. Tod Woodward said he saw her through a screen door, tried to calm her down, but shot her when she made movements that led him to believe she was about to kill her father and daughter in the next room.
Amaya's relatives testified that they had not felt threatened by her. An Alameda County jury found in 2001 that Woodward had used excessive force and awarded $2 million in damages, finding the officer 50 percent responsible for the shooting, Union City 45 percent and Amaya 5 percent.
In 2004, the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco found that the city had not broken any laws in training and supervising police and was not legally responsible for Amaya's death, apart from its liability for its employee's conduct. Superior Court Judge Yolanda Northridge then deducted the city's 45 percent share from the family's damage award, leaving her relatives with $1 million.
But the appeals court overruled Northridge on Wednesday and said that because the city was legally blameless, the damages must be reapportioned by considering only the relative responsibility of Woodward and Amaya. The jury's finding that the officer was 10 times more to blame than Amaya means that he must be assigned 91 percent of the damages, or $1.82 million, the court said. Union City's lawyer has said the city must pay any damages awarded against Woodward.