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Police officer denied qualified immunity where facts disputed by witness and time element suggests indifference

In Family Serv. Ass'n v. Wells Twp., the Sixth Circuit rejected the Defendant's appeal of the trial judge's denial of its argument for summary disposition of a Section 1983 claim brought on behalf of the Plaintiff's ward.  The plaintiff claimed that the defendant officer should be accountable for the injuries suffered by the ward, Coil, after the officer left him hand-cuffed and face down in the road--where he was struck and hurt by an SUV.  The plaintiff claimed that the officers actions were unreasonable and that his deliberate indifference to Coil's safety constituted a violation of the Constitution and 42 USC 1983. 

The Sixth Circuit noted that Coil's companion described the encounter that lead to Coil's injuries differently than the officer.  The companion claimed that he and Coil were sitting on a guardrail when the officer attempted to interrogate them.  When Coil refused to interact with the officer and attempted to walk away, he was handcuffed and left in the road for an inordinate length of time--where he was struck by the motorist approaching in the dark.

The Court noted that "reasonable jurors" could conclude that Coil had done "nothing suspicious" to warrant a Terry investigative stop and that simply being present in a high-crime area at night was not a basis to detain him.  It noted that if the companion's account is believed, there was no basis to arrest Coil and that in any event, leaving him cuffed and helpless on the ground on a dark road created at least an inference of "deliberate indifference" to his safety.  For these reasons, the lower court was correct to deny the office qualified immunity for his actions.

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