Case Studies for Andrew J. Brege
Officers conducted a Terry stop of a speeding vehicle registered to an unlicensed driver. The driver lacked a driver’s license but was not the registered owner. Because allowing an unlicensed person to drive a vehicle violates Michigan law, officers sought to discover whether the owner was among the three remaining passengers. The plaintiff refused to identify himself and was taken into custody. Illegal drugs were subsequently found on him. The state court of appeals reversed his drug conviction, and the plaintiff sued claiming he was unlawfully arrested. The federal Court of Appeals observed that an officer may request a detained person to identify himself, so long as the request amounts to one “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the stop.” Officers were entitled to qualified immunity under both prongs where it was reasonable to believe that the plaintiff’s refusal to identify himself violated Michigan’s obstruction statute and that such an interpretation of state law did not violate the Fourth Amendment.
The plaintiff, father of a middle school student, sued a police officer alleging that she violated his and his daughter’s constitutional rights by, over his objection, taking her to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and authorizing a blood draw for harmful substances after the principal told the officer that the student advised she had been contemplating suicide. The federal district court denied summary judgment, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed finding that the officer had probable cause to believe that the student was dangerous to herself, for purposes of a Fourth Amendment seizure and detention for a mental health evaluation and blood draw, and that the officer had qualified immunity from father and student’s substantive due process claims.
Plaintiff-Appellant was incarcerated when he was assaulted by a fellow inmate, whom he had verbally accused of cheating during a card game. Claims were brought against the inmate who assaulted him, the two deputies involved in classifying/maintaining the classification of the inmate who assaulted him, and the County. RSJA was initially successful in obtaining a full dismissal of this case by way of a motion in lieu of an answer. Following briefing, the Sixth Circuit upheld the district court’s opinion. Notably, despite Plaintiff-Appellant’s argument that qualified immunity is not properly decided in a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Sixth Circuit agreed with Defendants’ position that questions of qualified immunity should be resolved at the earliest possible stage of litigation.
LaFave v. Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Association, et al Case No. 22-36138-NO (13th Circuit Court for the County of Grand Traverse)
Plaintiff was the guardian of a developmentally disabled individual who was hospitalized following an acute medical event suffered at his group home. It was alleged that Defendants acted with gross negligence by not timely placing the disabled individual at an appropriate facility after the hospital was ready to discharge him. As a result of their extensive review of medical records and other client documentation, RSJA was able to “demonstrate that the named Defendants acted reasonably given the facts of the case.” Based on the evidence cited in Defendants’ motion to dismiss in lieu of an answer, the Court found no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the individuals acted with gross negligence or that their conduct was the proximate cause of injury. RSJA also successfully argued that Plaintiff failed to plead in avoidance of governmental immunity as to the Community Mental Health Authority. Ultimately, all claims were dismissed by the Court with no appeal filed.
In a case that initially made the national news when it was filed, RSJA successfully argued that Plaintiff’s claims lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissal of the defendant officer was thus appropriate. Plaintiff was suspected of vehicle theft and fled on foot when officers approached. One officer accidentally discharged his firearm during the foot chase, though Plaintiff was not hit. RSJA’s extensive knowledge and familiarity with these types of cases and with the federal courts, in general, resulted in an early dismissal without the need to engage in costly discovery.