An appeals court cleared the way for a lawsuit alleging the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office improperly held onto a man’s firearms after they were removed from his home amid mental-health concerns.
The ruling Wednesday by the 4th District Court of Appeal said officers in 2013 removed guns from the home of John Dougan after a family member called authorities and expressed concerns he was suicidal.
Dougan was not arrested or involuntarily taken for a mental-health examination.
Dougan later made several requests for the return of the firearms but was told he needed to obtain a court order, the ruling said.
Dougan ultimately received a court order for the weapons and also filed a lawsuit alleging the sheriff’s office had used an illegal policy of retaining guns.
The lawsuit also sought damages and an injunction against the sheriff’s office using the policy.
A circuit court dismissed the lawsuit, but a three-judge panel of the appeals court reversed that decision and allowed the lawsuit to move forward.
The ruling, written by appeals court Judge Dorian Damoorgian and joined by judges Alan Forst and Sandra Perlman, said in part that state law “did not require or permit the sheriff to retain appellant’s (Dougan’s) firearms in response to a safety call which did not result in a criminal investigation or charges.
“Therefore, appellant sufficiently alleged that the sheriff had a policy of retaining firearms which was not authorized by an existing statute and enforced it against appellant,” the ruling continued.
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