Frank McAllister, who suffers from diabetes, was driving his car alone early one afternoon when he suddenly went into a severe hypoglycemic state. McAllister's car struck two other vehicles before coming to rest. Although McAllister was not injured, witnesses described him as staring into space and convulsing. Burns Harbor police officer Jerry Price responded. The dispatch advised Price that the accident may have been caused by an intoxicated driver. Price confronted McAllister. When McAllister failed to follow his instructions or respond to his questions, Price removed him from his car with force. According to a witness, Price threw him to the ground, put his full weight on his back, and handcuffed him. Eventually, and only after the suggestion of a bystander, Price checked McAllister for medical alert identification. He discovered a diabetes alert necklace on McAllister and released him. McAllister suffered from a broken hip and a bruised lung. He brought a § 1983 complaint against Price. Judge Van Bokkelen (N.D. Ind.) denied Price's request for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds, concluding that there were genuine issues of material fact. Price brought an interlocutory appeal.
In their opinion, Judges Bauer, Flaum, and Tinder affirmed. A qualified immunity defense requires that a court answer two questions: whether there is a constitutional deprivation and whether the constitutional right was "clearly established" at the time. The Court first addressed the deprivation -- whether Price used excessive force. Three factors mattered: the degree of severity of any offense, whether the victim was a safety threat, and whether the victim was a flight risk. Before addressing the merits of the excessive force claim, the Court resolved two evidentiary issues. First, it concluded that the district court did not err in allowing evidence of McAllister's hip injury, even though there was no conclusive medical testimony that Price's actions caused the injury. Some causal evidence is all that is required for the jury to consider the evidence. Second, the Court concluded that the district court did not err in considering McAllister's diabetic condition. Although a police officer is not required to accommodate unknown conditions, here McAllister was obviously suffering from something and Price was trained in recognizing diabetes, trained in recognizing intoxication, and trained to look for medical alert identifications. On the merits of the constitutional deprivation question, the Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence for a jury to conclude that the amount of force used was excessive. On the second question, the Court concluded that the case law in effect at the time of the incident was sufficient to "clearly establish" McAllister's rights to be free from the excessive force as alleged.