408 F.3d 305 (6th Cir. 2005), 04-1005, Estate of Carter v. City of Detroit

Docket Nº:04-1005.
Citation:408 F.3d 305
Party Name:ESTATE OF Tori CARTER; Brenda Chambers, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. CITY OF DETROIT, et al., Defendants, Donald Hollins, Lieutenant, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:May 27, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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408 F.3d 305 (6th Cir. 2005)

ESTATE OF Tori CARTER; Brenda Chambers, Plaintiffs-Appellees,


CITY OF DETROIT, et al., Defendants,

Donald Hollins, Lieutenant, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 04-1005.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

May 27, 2005

Argued: April 21, 2005.

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Mark W. Peyser, Timmis & Inman, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

Jana H. Sibson, Pinckney, Michigan, for Appellees.


Mark W. Peyser, Karen A. Chopra, Timmis & Inman, Detroit, Michigan, for Appellant.

Jana H. Sibson, Pinckney, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before: BOGGS, Chief Judge; ROGERS, Circuit Judge; SHADUR, District Judge. [*]


ROGERS, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Lieutenant Donald Hollins appeals the district court's denial of his motion for summary judgment based on a claim of qualified immunity. Plaintiff, the Estate of Tori Carter, sued the City of Detroit and several Detroit police officers, including Hollins, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Decedent Carter had suffered a heart attack while in police custody as a pre-trial detainee, and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. This appeal concerns

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only Hollins; he is alleged to have acted with deliberate indifference to Carter's serious medical needs by failing to order that Carter be taken to the hospital and failing to tell his replacement that she was ill and needed transportation.

The judgment of the district court denying Hollins's motion for summary judgment is affirmed. Taking the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, Hollins knew that Carter was experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath, some of the classic symptoms of a heart attack, believed at the time that she was three days behind in taking heart medication, and yet failed to have her transported to the hospital and failed to inform his relief of her illness. Such actions are sufficient to permit a jury's inference that Hollins was deliberately indifferent to her serious medical needs. Because the facts as alleged by the Estate demonstrate the violation of a clearly established constitutional right, the district court properly concluded that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment.


It is clear "that a defendant, entitled to invoke a qualified immunity defense, may not appeal a district court's summary judgment order insofar as that order determines whether or not the pretrial record sets forth a 'genuine' issue of fact for trial." Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 319-20, 115 S.Ct. 2151, 132 L.Ed.2d 238 (1995). Accordingly, for purposes of this appeal, this court takes the facts as alleged by the Estate. Many of the following stated facts are of course disputed.

On April 18, 2000, decedent Tori Carter and her sister Angela Orr were arrested by members of the Detroit Police Department and were charged with felonious assault after the two had a physical fight with each other. The two were transported separately to the Second Precinct, arriving shortly after 12 noon. Lieutenant Hollins was the officer in charge at the point in time that Carter and Orr arrived.

Shortly after Carter was booked, she told Officer William Carter that she was having chest pains and needed to go to the hospital. Officer Carter informed Hollins of Tori Carter's complaint. Tori Carter also requested medicine that she had not been able to take with her from the house, and Hollins admits that the information he received on this was that Carter had not taken her "heart" medicine for three days. After Carter's death, it was determined that the medicine Carter was taking was actually for heartburn, or acid reflux, but there is no indication that Hollins knew that by "heart" medicine, Carter meant "heartburn" medicine. Hollins claims that he instructed Officer Crouch, who was the arresting officer, to transport Carter to the hospital. Crouch, however, testified that he did not recall being told to transport Carter to the hospital.

Other detainees testified that Carter cried loudly for help and continued to complain that her chest hurt and that she needed to go to the hospital, and may have even been lying on the floor of the cell while Hollins was still at the precinct. At approximately 1:00 p.m., Hollins left the Second Precinct in order to attend class. Although he had been planning to leave at 12:30 p.m., Hollins had stayed until 1:00 p.m. due to a large influx of prisoners. Because the Detroit Police Board of Review later determined that Hollins left his shift early without proper relief or permission, it can be assumed that Hollins was supposed to stay beyond 1:00 p.m., although he was at least informally permitted to leave at that time. Hollins made no entries into the precinct's "blotter" detailing Carter's complaints or the fact that he allegedly ordered Crouch to transport Carter

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to the hospital. Hollins knew that Carter was still at the precinct when he left; i.e., he knew that she had not been transported to the hospital. Hollins did not return to the precinct until after Carter's eventual collapse and death, but when he did return, he informed a responding homicide investigator, Frazer Adams, that he had spoken with Tori Carter personally about her complaints before he left for class. Hollins also told Adams that he had forgotten to tell his relief, Sergeant Robbie Marshall, that Carter was ill and had requested to be taken to the hospital. In a preliminary complaint report that Hollins filled out soon after he spoke with Adams, Hollins gave a different account. He made no mention of speaking with the decedent Carter personally, stating only that he was advised by Officer Carter of Tori Carter's illness. He also stated that he "cannot recall if Sgt. Marshall was notified of [Carter's] complaining of being ill."

After Hollins left, Carter continued to complain about chest pains. At 4:00 p.m., Sergeant Marshall was relieved by Lieutenant Robinson. Robinson spoke with Carter while making rounds, and learned from this conversation that Carter was ill. Carter apparently told Robinson that she could not sleep and had not taken her acid reflux medicine. At approximately 4:10 p.m., Robinson called for a car to take Carter to the hospital. At approximately 5:00 p.m., Carter was found lying unconscious on the floor of her cell. Robinson called 911 and began performing chest compressions. Carter was taken by the responding medics to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Carter's death was the result of a heart attack caused by the complete blockage of an artery. In the opinion of at least one doctor, James Davia, it was "highly probable" that the chest pains that Carter complained of earlier in the day were caused by a lack of blood flow to the heart, and were warning signs of the impending heart attack, or possibly a heart attack already. According to Dr. Davia, if Carter had been taken to the hospital when she complained of chest pain, "there is a 90% probability that she could have been appropriately treated at the hospital and would have survived the hospitalization."

The Detroit Police Board of Review investigated Carter's death, and in a report issued on April 5, 2001, recommended that criminal charges be brought against Hollins and others, and found that Hollins had violated departmental rules and regulations and should be brought before the Disciplinary Administration Unit. With respect to criminal charges, the report indicated that the Board agreed with the county prosecutor that Hollins should be charged with willful neglect of duty. With respect to departmental policies, the Board found that Hollins committed violations by failing to send Carter to the hospital after she complained of chest pains, failing to make blotter entries reporting the condition of prisoners, leaving his shift early without proper relief or permission, and failing to make a blotter entry of his departure.

Carter's Estate filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court on April 10, 2001, against the City of Detroit, Officer Hollins, and other City of Detroit police officers, alleging violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. On May 14, 2001, the defendants filed notice of removal, and on June 18, 2001, the District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan remanded the Estate's claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress to the state court. Officer Hollins and several of the other police officer defendants were simultaneously

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facing criminal charges arising from Carter's death, and the district court proceedings were stayed pending the outcome of those charges. Hollins, who, as recommended by the Review Board, had been charged with willful neglect of duty, was acquitted on October 15, 2001, following a jury trial.

In the federal suit, Hollins was alleged to have deprived Carter of the right to freedom from unreasonable seizure and the right to freedom from loss of life. More specifically, the complaint alleged that the defendants, including Hollins, "failed to provide Plaintiff's deceased any medical assistance or transportation to a medical facility, failed to call for medical transportation and failed to document in the desk blotter any information of plaintiff's deceased's complaints that would give notice to on coming supervisors of plaintiff's deceased's complaints."

On November 13, 2003, the district court denied Hollins's motion for summary judgment. The district court held that there were genuine issues of material fact regarding Hollins's actions that precluded summary judgment. The district court noted two specific reasons for denying Hollins qualified immunity: first, the testimony of other pretrial detainees indicated that Carter had repeatedly cried out for help and had complained of chest pain, troubled breathing,...

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