Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel

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Medical Care

     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability and Medical Care for Arrestees, 2017 (2) AELE Mo. L. J. 101.

     When two men broke into a door to his apartment, a male occupant dialed 911. He struggled with the men in his bedroom. Officers saw two men exit the apartment, and one of them had a gun in his hand as he ran towards an officer. The officer shot him while the second suspect fled. The man shot was the occupant, who had disarmed a burglar. The officer never administered aid to the wounded man, later saying that he considered it unsafe to do so with an active crime scene and that the suspect appeared to be dead. The occupant died. The officer was entitled to qualified immunity on claims for excessive force and deliberate indifference to medical needs, as his actions were objectively reasonable based on what he knew at the time. Thomas v. City of Columbus, #16-3375, 854 F.3d 361 (6th Cir.).

     Three officers were sued for ther involvement in the warrantless arrest of a vehicle passenger for possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, charges which were later dropped. A federal appeals court held that summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunty was proper on a false arrest claim, as the officers had probable cause for the arrest because one officer saw the plaintiff throw a crack pipe out of his car window. Two of the arresting officers, however, were not entitled to qualified immunity because they allegedly delayed seeking medical care when the passenger was shot in the genitals, acting with deliberate indifference and reporting his injury as a "laceration." The third officer, who arrived later, was entitled to qualified immunity, however, as there was no indication that he knew that the other officers caused a delay in medical care. Valderrama v. Rousseau, #13-15752, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 4116 (11th Cir.).
     A man claimed that he was beaten by police officers and sustained a fractured collarbone, a SLAP-type labral tear, and facial injuries leaving permanent scarring and requiring two nose surgeries. He also became legally deaf in one ear and has reduced hearing in the other. A federal appeals court reversed the dismissal of a deliberate indifference denial of medical care claim against the doctor at a hospital emergency room, finding that if the complaint were amended to allege two things claimed in the plaintiff's opposition to the doctor's motion to dismiss, it would show a sufficiently culpable state of mind for a constitutional violation. Those two things were that the officers falsely told the female doctor that one of the officers he allegedly attacked was a woman, and that he should therefore be "ignored and left alone." Nielsen v. Rabin, #12-4313, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 2745 (2nd Cir.).
     The family of a female arrestee who died while held in a cell in a police station without needed medical attention for over 24 hours was awarded $1 million in damages by a jury. According to the plaintiffs, the woman's lawyer and several family members repeatedly let officers know that she was seriously ill, and she herself informed them of this also. She was obese, diabetic, and had asthma. The jury found that a police practice of holding detainees in cells in police stations without medical attention for up to two days was unconstitutional. Ortiz v. the City of Chicago, #04-C-7423, U.S. Dist. Ct. (N.D. Ill. Nov. 4, 2013).
     Officers who shot and killed a man were sued for excessive force and deliberate indifference to a known serious medical need, the need for treatment of his wounds. The jury found in favor of the officers after being instructed that the plaintiffs had to prove that deliberate indifference caused the man's death. A federal appeals court upheld the trial judge's grant of a new trial on the medical indifference claim. In such a delay of treatment case, it is not necessary to show that the delay in providing medical care caused the death when a layperson would find it obvious that a delay in treatment created a risk of serious harm. The defendants failed to show that a substantial ground for a difference of opinion existed on the correctness of the trial decision. Miedzianowski v. City of Clare, #13-101, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 17375, 2013 Fed App. 243P (6th Cir.).
     A bipolar woman who had ceased taking her medication was arrested for disruptive actions at an airport. She allegedly received no medical attention while detained, and was released in a high-crime area of town where she was first raped and then either pushed or fell out of a high-rise building, causing her to suffer permanent brain damage. While there is no general right to have police protection against the criminal acts of third parties, police can be liable for damage if they create or enhance the danger of such crimes. While the woman had no due process right to be kept in custody for her protection, it was "clearly established that the police may not create a danger, without justification, by arresting someone in a safe place and releasing her in a hazardous one while unable to protect herself." A number of individual defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity for their role in the woman's release in a dangerous area or failure to provide her with medical care while in custody. The court stated that “they might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo,” since “she is white and well off while the local population is predominantly black and not affluent, causing her to stand out as a person unfamiliar with the environment and thus a potential target for crime.” Paine v. Cason, #10–1487, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 8450 (7th Cir.).
     After officers made a controlled purchase of pot in front of an apartment, officers entered the premises, and arrested a female occupant who was smoking marijuana. After she told them that she feels ill, they allegedly denied her requests for a baby aspirin. She subsequently has a heart attack, but the officers are not liable for denying her medical attention, since they were not on notice, based on her appearance, of her serious medical condition, and were not directly made aware that she was experiencing chest pains. Florek v. Village of Mundelein, #10-3696, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 16854 (7th Cir.).
     City's emergency medical technicians did not violate patient's Fourth Amendment rights or his due process rights when they restrained him during an emergency call and "hogtied" him because he was resisting their efforts to diagnose and treat him. The patient was then resisting them because of a diabetic episode, and the court rules that he was not then "mentally present," and therefore could not possibly have communicated a refusal of treatment. Davidson v. City of Jacksonville, No. 3:03-CV-343, 359 F. Supp. 2d 1291 (M.D. Fla. 2005). [N/R]
     Police officer who allegedly failed to order that arrestee be taken to the hospital when she was exhibiting symptoms of a heart attack was not entitled to qualified immunity in her estate's wrongful death lawsuit. If these actions occurred in this manner, they violated her clearly established constitutional right to receive necessary medical attention. Carter v. City of Detroit, No. 04-1005 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 9717 (6th Cir.). [2005 LR Jul]
     Officer acted reasonably in not interfering with forcible blood and urine tests imposed on DUI arrestee by hospital doctor after he concluded that she was not competent to refuse consent and needed medical treatment to prevent the possibility of a drug overdose. Estate of Allen v. City of Rockford, No. 02-1873, 349 F.3d 1015 (7th Cir. 2003). [2004 LR Apr]
     In lawsuit claiming that police officers failed to provide adequate medical care to arrestee, resulting in his death, jury engaged in improper speculation in awarding $3 million to decedent's children without evidence to support a finding that the economic value of the loss of his services, advice, and counsel was worth that amount, and therefore was set aside by trial judge. Separate award of $2.5 million to decedent's estate for his pain and suffering was not disturbed. Rosario v. City of Union City Police Department, 263 F. Supp. 2d 874 (D.N.J. 2003). [N/R]
      Evidence was insufficient to support jury's award in favor of motorist claiming that officer was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs following a vehicle accident, as it did not support the conclusion that the motorist suffered from a cerebral edema. Trial court properly set aside jury's award of $50,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages to the plaintiff. Best v. Town of Clarkstown, No. 02-7664, 61 Fed. Appx. 760 (2nd Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     There was a genuine issue of fact as to whether an officer's use of pepper spray was reasonably necessary to subdue a man being arrested for disorderly conduct, but the officer did not engage in deliberate indifference to the arrestee's serious medical needs by failing to immediately call an ambulance after the use of the spray, in the absence of any evidence that the delay caused any harm. The evidence further showed that the arrestee declined the officer's offer to give him a towel and water to flush out his eyes. Mantz v. Chain, 239 F. Supp. 2d 486 (D.N.J. 2002). [N/R]
     294:92 Pedestrian injured in hit-and-run accident had no constitutional right to first aid from off-duty officers who came to the scene Mueller v. County of Westchester, 943 F.Supp. 357 (S.D.N.Y. 1996).
     284:115 Officer was entitled to qualified immunity for shooting armed suspect who held out a hand containing a gun in response to officer's demand that he show his hand; officer reasonably feared for his life, regardless of exactly what direction displayed weapon was pointed; officers had no clearly established duty to provide medical aid to shot suspect prior to arrival of EMTs Wilson v. Meeks, 52 F.3d 1547 (10th Cir. 1995).
     City was not liable to man for his quadriplegia suffered after he intentionally jumped out of a window; jury could reasonably conclude that any negligence by police officers in transporting him or failing to obtain medical assistance did not cause his injuries Land v. City of New York, 575 N.Y.S.2d 690 (A.D. 1991).
     Officers not liable for failure to provide first aid to assault victim; victim was not bleeding and asked to be returned to motel room Doerner by Price v. City of Asheville, 367 S.E.2d 356 (N.C. App. 1988).

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