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Deputies sued for assistance of wrongful repossession of vehicle


Two Ogemaw County deputies were sued in Federal Court after they actively assisted a "repo" man in seizing a car pursuant to a private repossession order.  Sheila Hensley and McClellan Hensley sued the deputies after they assumed that Ronald Gassman, doing business as "Repo Ron," had the legal right to take the Hensley's car.  Gassman was mistaken; however, the deputies asssumed he had the proper paperwork, rejected Sheila's claims of current payment, and broke the car window to extricate Sheila to secure possession.  They later arrested her and charged her with felonious assault for attempting to move the car.

After Gassman learned he was wrong, he returned the car (smashed car window and all) and the Hensleys filed a lawsuit.  The Eastern District judge dismissed Hensleys' claims, holding that the deputies were entitled to governmental immunity.  On appeal, the Sixth Circuit reversed and reinstated the claims.  It pointed out that the Deputies clearly exceeded their authority and violated the 4th Amendment's guarantee against illegal search and seizure when they became more than passive bystanders in a private civil dispute.  When a law officer violates a clearly established legal right, he sacrifices his right to governmental immunity under the law.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262