Lucky Phounsy
Lucky Phounsy. Photo credit: DignityMemorial.com

A federal judge tentatively ruled Monday that a new trial will be held to determine how much money should be awarded to the family of a man who died following his arrest by San Diego County sheriff’s deputies seven years ago.

The tentative ruling from U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff stems from an $85 million verdict awarded by a San Diego federal jury in March to the family of 32-year-old Lucky Phounsy, who died on April 13, 2015.

Attorneys for San Diego County and former sheriff’s deputy Richard Fischer sought to overturn the jury’s findings or reduce the amount awarded during a Monday afternoon hearing in San Diego federal court.

Huff indicated she would not grant a request for a new trial entirely, but would rule for a new trial solely to determine how much the damages should be. Huff is expected to issue a final ruling soon.

Phounsy’s family alleged in its lawsuit that he was experiencing a mental health crisis on the day of his death. Responding deputies shocked Phounsy with a stun gun and repeatedly struck him, in addition to hog-tying him, according to the lawsuit filed in late 2015.

Phounsy was later placed in an ambulance while still hogtied, where he went into cardiac arrest, the family claimed. He died a few days later at a hospital.

The suit alleged the deputies escalated the situation by agitating an already paranoid Phounsy, who was suffering from delusions that someone was going to harm him and his family.

Among the deputies involved in the arrest was Fischer, a former deputy who pleaded guilty years later to sex charges involving 16 women he encountered while on the job.

The lawsuit alleged Fischer accompanied Phounsy in the ambulance and “forcibly restrained” Phounsy’s head and torso by holding him down onto a gurney.

Attorneys for the defense argued in court and in their filings that the jury’s verdicts finding Fischer and the county liable were not supported by the evidence. They also argued that the $85 million award was a far higher amount than awarded by juries in various other cases with similar facts.

City News Service contributed to this article.



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Ellen Bullock