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No qualified immunity for officer in diabetic man's claim

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Indiana Lawyer Rehearing

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed denial of summary judgment in favor of a police officer in a diabetic man’s claims that the officer used excessive force and injured him while removing him from a car after a diabetic episode.

Police Chief Jerry Price claimed qualified immunity against the Fourth Amendment violation claim by Frank McAllister. McAllister’s blood sugar plummeted while he was driving in Burns Harbor, causing him to get into an accident with two other cars. Calls to 911 reported a possible intoxicated driver; witnesses at the crash saw McAllister staring off into space, twitching, and convulsing as Price arrived at the scene.

McAllister was unable to respond to Price’s request to turn off the car or answer what was wrong with him. Price, believing he was intoxicated, pulled McAllister out of the car, threw him to the ground, and handcuffed him. Price is trained to ask if someone who appears unwell is diabetic, but did not do so until after taking him to the ground. After this, Price found McAllister’s medical alert necklace and released the handcuffs.

McAllister suffered several injuries from the incident, including a bruised lung and a broken hip. He claimed that he wasn’t hurt from the accident.

Price filed an interlocutory appeal to the 7th Circuit once the District Court denied his summary judgment motion on the excessive force issue.

In Frank McAllister v. Jerry L. Price, in his individual capacity, No. 10-1213, the Circuit judges concluded the District Court didn’t err in finding that McAllister’s injuries were relevant to determining whether Price used excessive force or in finding a genuine issue of material fact regarding McAllister’s diabetic condition.

They also found McAllister had enough evidence to create an issue of fact on whether Price’s use of force was reasonable.

“Viewed in the light most favorable to McAllister, the evidence shows that Price ignored obvious signs of McAllister’s medical condition, pulled him out of the car, and took him to the ground with such force that McAllister’s hip was broken and his lung bruised from the force of Price’s knee in his back, not because such force was necessary but because Price was 'angry' with McAllister,” wrote Judge Joel Flaum.

Even if Price was justified in using some force to remove McAllister, using the force involved here against a non-resisting suspect could have been unreasonable given the circumstances. There are other possible interpretations of the evidence, but if believed, it’s sufficient for a jury to conclude it was excessive force, noted the judge.

The judges also concluded that Price’s conduct went beyond the bounds of McAllister’s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights and Price could have inferred his conduct was illegal based on previous cases dealing with excessive force.
 
 

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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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