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7th Circuit affirms judgment for officers in diabetic man’s case

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City of East Chicago and police officers on an estate’s excessive force and other claims, finding the officers had reasonable suspicion that a diabetic man who was having a hypoglycemic episode was possibly intoxicated.

The estate of Jerome Clement sued the City of East Chicago, its police department and the chief of police for wrongful arrest, excessive force, failure to train police officers, and condoning the use of excessive force. Clement was a diabetic and had an episode in August 2006 while driving, in which he ended up incoherent and unresponsive in a parking lot. Police called to the scene thought he was intoxicated, as he had bloodshot eyes and they smelled alcohol in the car.

Clement did not respond to commands and gave incoherent responses, so police used mace and batons to subdue him and put him in handcuffs. While trying to handcuff Clement, he began to flail and hit his head against the payment. Police later called an ambulance after seeing blood on his face. The paramedic found his blood sugar to be low and Clement was taken to the hospital. He died of natural causes two weeks later.

During the incident, Clement wasn’t wearing a medical identification necklace or bracelet, and police didn’t check his pockets to see that he had a card noting that he was a diabetic.

The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on the federal claims and remanded the state claims to state court.

In William Padula, administrator of the estate of Jerome Clement v. Timothy Leimbach, et al., No. 10-3395, the 7th Circuit panel, noting that they respectfully recognize the tragic circumstances surrounding Clement’s death, affirmed summary judgment. They found the District Court correctly concluded that the officers had probable cause to arrest Clement because they had probable cause to believe he had driven while intoxicated. The police dispatcher indicated that Clement was intoxicated and some of the officers smelled alcohol in his car. Clement had bloodshot eyes and didn’t comply with requests to get out of his car. These are similar characteristics to that of someone who is intoxicated, wrote Judge Joel Flaum. The judges also noted that Clement wasn’t wearing a medical identification necklace or bracelet that would have alerted the officers that he was diabetic.

Also, officers didn’t call an ambulance because they suspected Clement of having a medical episode, as William Padula contended, but did so because of the blood on Clement’s face.

The District Court was also correct to conclude that the officers’ use of force wasn’t excessive. There’s no evidence that police threw Clement to the ground, or used more force than necessary to control the situation and handcuff Clement. And while Padula pointed to Clement’s death, presumably as evidence of the excessive force, the coroner’s report stated Clement died of natural causes, wrote the judge.

Padula’s claims for failure to adequately train the officers and for condoning and ratifying excessive force fail because the underlying claims for wrongful arrest and excessive force also fail, wrote Judge Flaum.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the decision to remand Padula’s remaining state law claims to state court.

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  • bad trend
    Gee, I would be scared as hell now if I were diabetic. Or had a disability that might mistake a cop into thinking that I had refused one of their precious orders so now I had to be maced, tazed, and beat the crap out of until I was sufficiently punished to never make that mistake again! No need for police to respect due process is the implicit message of this. Dispense with the charges and judicial system if you think someone is refusing an order, don't pause and think, just be a meathead and just go ahead and overreact. Bad trend of this folks, bad trend. Only hope I guess is that good cops will try and rein in their own.
  • More BS
    Thug cops continue to overstep their authority and the courts keep letting them off the hook, sure Clement died of natural causes after the thug cops considered him drunk instead of having a diabetic seizure. The cops did not smell alcohol, they removed his bracelet then beat the crap out of him just for the hell of. There are so many corrupt cops that is absolutely ridiculous. We don't need to fear the criminals except the ones that wear badges and think that they are a license to break the law. Every cop on every police force in America thinks they are above the law and why not the courts keep giving them a free pass. If you ever go into a courtroom and it is your word against a cop's word don't believe that happy horse shit that absence of proof the cops word is no better than yours, BS! The court will take the word of the cop every time, because a cop wouldn't lie, would they? Not unless the mouth was moving!

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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