Michael Lee depicted on 2016 Chargers custom football card
In a little-noticed move, the San Diego city council is set to pay former San Diego Chargers defensive back Michael C. Lee $1.35 million to settle a lawsuit brought by Lee charging that he sustained career-ending injuries at the hands of police during a violent Gaslamp Quarter arrest.
The circumstances are recounted in a January 7, 2019 ruling in the case by a federal judge in San Diego.
"On May 28, 2017, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff Michael C. Lee was standing on the sidewalk outside a club in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego," the court wrote, citing Lee's complaint.
"Lee was waiting for a ride from a friend when two police officers approached Lee. Lee asked the officers if he was doing anything wrong, but the officers did not respond. A short time later, the officers again approached Lee, who was still on his cell phone with his friend.
"The officers grabbed Lee, and violently took him to the ground. Once on the ground, Lee's arms were twisted and pulled behind him, causing extreme pain. One of the officers twisted Lee's left arm with sufficient torque that it fractured his humerus bone in several places. Lee was arrested, but the district attorney refused to prosecute."
The violent encounter ended Lee's football career, the document says.
"At the time of the incident, Lee was employed by the San Diego Chargers as a defensive back on the 90-man roster and was hoping to make the team's 53-man roster for the upcoming season.
"As a result of the severity of the injury, and the lengthy recovery period, Lee was released by the Chargers and unable to pursue playing in the National Football League."
Lee sued the city of San Diego in January 2018, alleging that police violated his civil rights, arresting him without probable cause, and committing negligence and battery.
"This was a devastating injury," Michael Marrinan, Lee's attorney, told the Union-Tribune at the time.
"It took 16 screws to repair it."
An October 20, 2020 ruling by Federal Judge Thomas J. Whelan rebuffed the city's efforts to dismiss the case. "Defendants argue summary judgment is warranted against Lee's negligence and battery causes of action.
"Their argument is based on the theory that the force used to detain/arrest Lee was reasonable. Because the Court has found disputed issues of fact preclude a finding that they did not use excessive force, Defendants' argument regarding the negligence and battery causes of action fail."
Now the San Diego city council is on the verge of quietly settling with Lee and ending the case. "The settlement amount of $1,350,000 will be paid from the Public Liability Fund," per an item on the council's so-called consent agenda for Tuesday, April 27.
According to a draft resolution attached to the April 27 agenda, the settlement was approved by a unanimous city council, with District 4's Monica Montgomery Steppe absent, during a March 16 meeting closed to the public.