While attending a family wedding, Anthony Morales, a former police officer, attempted to take a pistol away from a drunken wedding guest. During the ensuing struggle, the gun discharged. Ventura County Sheriff’s Deputies, who had been called to the scene, surrounded the area. One of the deputies, who had less than 4 months of patrol experience, believed the gun was being pointed in her direction. In fear for her life, she fired her own gun at the wedding guest, striking Mr. Morales instead. The bullet struck Mr. Morales in the back causing permanent nerve damage.
The County of Ventura contended that because the deputy believed her life was being threatened at the time she fired, neither she or the County should be held liable. As a consequence, the County offered Mr. Morales only $10,000 to settle his case.
After a three week trial in the United States District Court (Los Angeles), Peter Williamson, along with his co-counsel John Burton, obtained a unanimous verdict in favor of Mr. Morales in the sum of 2.1 million dollars. This verdict represents the largest verdict against a police agency in Ventura County history. The case was ultimately settled after trial for $2,475.000.00.