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Published: May 06, 2010

On May 6, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in an unanimous decision affirmed the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s decision dismissing Plaintiff’s claim that certain Presque Isle County correction officers were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff’s husband’s serious medical needs and that their actions violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. Presque Isle County and its correction officers were defended by G. Gus Morris and D. Randall Gilmer of McGRAW MORRIS P.C. in Troy, Michigan. A decision in favor of Plaintiff would have exposed Presque Isle County to medical costs in excess of $10,000,000. Plaintiff’s husband, Paul Meier, was in a coma for approximately six (6) months after suffering what appeared to be an alcohol withdrawal induced seizure while in custody on suspicion of drunk driving. Mr. Meier admitted to drinking and failed several sobriety tests. He also registered a .31 BAC on a breath-analysis test. Mr. Meier refused to take the second confirming breath-analysis test. Despite this high BAC level, Mr. Meier was not slurring his speech, was able to walk independently, and was able to answer all questions asked of him by the arresting officer and by the in-take officer at Presque Isle County Jail. Because of the high BAC level, the correction officer contacted the on-call physician to determine if Mr. Meier needed medical attention. The on-call physician informed the correction officer that there was no need to provide him with medical attention, but that the jail should keep an eye on him to ensure that nothing changes. The correction officer logs establish that he was placed in a holding cell and observed as the on-call physician directed. Despite being able to eat three meals, shower, and sleep throughout the night, in the early afternoon Mr. Meier was found unconscious but breathing in his cell. The correction immediately requested help from other deputies and contacted EMS. According to Mr. Morris, “the Sixth Circuit’s decision makes it clear that correction officers cannot be held liable for deliberate indifference of a medical claim when the correction officers have followed the advice of an on-call physician. This decision is not only consistent with constitutional law, but common sense. Finding that a correction officer can be liable for medical indifference when he or she follows the advice of a physician would simply defy logic and common.”


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