Civil Rights

This summary also appears under Constitutional Law


Issues: Whether the defendants-police officers were entitled to qualified immunity on the plaintiff's "excessive force" claim; 42 USC § 1983; Const. amend. IV; Burley v. Gagacki; Pearson v. Callahan; Sample v. Bailey; Saucier v. Katz; Comstock v. McCrary; The "collective knowledge doctrine"; United States v. Hensley; Humphrey v. Mabry; Whether the "seizure" violated the Fourth Amendment; Dorsey v. Barber; United States v. Obasa; Terry v. Ohio; Smoak v. Hall; Houston v. Clark Cnty. Sheriff Deputy John Does 1-5; "Clearly established law"; Plumhoff v. Rickard; Champion v. Outlook Nashville, Inc.; "Excessive force"; Graham v. Connor; Burgess v. Fischer; Alexis v. McDonald's Rests. of MA, Inc. (1st Cir.); Whether the officers were entitled to "governmental immunity" on the plaintiff's Michigan state law claims; MCL 691.1407; Odom v. Wayne Cnty.; Ross v. Consumers Power Co. (On Rehearing)

Court: U.S. Court of Appeals Sixth Circuit

Case Name: Brown v. Lewis

e-Journal Number: 59387

Judge(s): Stranch, Keith, and Moore


[This appeal was from the ED-MI.] The police officers in this excessive force and state-law false arrest and assault and battery case were properly denied summary judgment on their claims for qualified immunity and governmental immunity. The court reviewed the 911 call that precipitated plaintiff-Brown's arrest and the various versions of the facts. It concluded that the officers had a basis to initiate the stop because they were not aware the intoxicated male that placed the 911 call was not in the car when they stopped Brown, a female. However, the officers were not entitled to immunity on Brown's claim that there was an unconstitutional Fourth Amendment seizure. The court determined that the seizure began when, after Brown pulled over into a gas station, "the police approached her car, with guns drawn, and opened her car door." Under the version of the events most favorable to Brown, they "should have been aware of her gender and that she was alone in the car at least as soon as they opened her car door and heard her screaming, but they nonetheless threw her to the ground, handcuffed her, and kept her in handcuffs for about ten minutes." Further, "the nature of the stop, as described in Brown's testimony, was significantly intrusive - to a degree that was not rationally related to the basis of the original intrusion." When she was "thrown to the ground and handcuffed, the stop ripened into an arrest without probable cause, and she was seized unlawfully." Moreover, "[a]t the time of the stop, the law clearly established limits on both the duration and nature of an investigatory stop." The officers were also not entitled to qualified immunity on Brown's excessive force claim. Under the circumstances, "it was unreasonable for the officers to have pulled Brown from her car and thrown her to the ground." Further, they were not entitled to governmental immunity on her state law claims. "Michigan state law imposes a subjective test for governmental immunity for intentional torts, based on the officials' state of mind, in contrast to the objective test for federal qualified immunity." The court concluded that a jury could find that the officers' behavior "'shows such indifference to whether harm w[ould] result as to be equal to a willingness that harm w[ould] result.'" Affirmed.


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