​​​​​​​Excessive use of force

Clay v. Emmi, No. 14-2351, 2015 WL 4758917 (6th Cir. Aug. 13, 2015)

Claim that officer used excessive force in taking person into custody for involuntary commitment survives summary judgment

Background: Police officer Emmi went to the home of Clay upon call from Clay’s counselor, who reported that Clay, who had diagnoses of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and a history of suicidal ideation, was making suicidal statements. Clay voluntarily rode with Emmi to the hospital and entered the hospital “to talk to somebody.” When hospital staff asked Clay to disrobe and put on a gown, he refused. In a § 1983 action against Emmi and others for excessive use of force, Clay claimed that, despite his offering no resistance, he was wrestled to the ground, handcuffed and turned face-down, and then tasered in the back by Emmi while handcuffed and offering no resistance. Emmi claims that Clay attempted to leave the hospital, physically resisted efforts to keep him there, and had to be tasered and then handcuffed in order to overcome his resistance. Witnesses provided support for Emmi’s version of events, but there was no definitive evidence (such as a video recording). Emmi moved for summary judgment on the grounds that a 14th Amendment “subjective use of force” analysis applied to his actions, he had no reason to think that his actions violated Clay’s due process rights, and therefore he was entitled to “qualified immunity” for his actions.

Holdings: The district court found, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, that (1) the 4 th Amendment’s “objectively reasonable” standard for use of force applied to Emmi’s actions because Clay was not in custody until the initial “seizure” in the hospital, and (2) because key facts were in dispute that related directly to the need to use force to manage Clay in the hospital, summary judgment action was not supported at that stage of the proceedings.

Notable Points: The Court noted that “among the factors to be considered” in determining whether an officer’s use of force was objectively reasonable were “whether the person being seized poses an immediate threat to the safety of officers or others” and “whether the person is actively resisting.”9 Therefore, “Clay's level of resistance and whether he was handcuffed before being tasered” were “central to this inquiry.”

Found in DMHL Volume 34 Issue 3