Dyer v. Houston, No. 19-10280 (5th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs appealed the district court's dismissal, on qualified immunity grounds, of their deliberate-indifference claims against paramedics and police officers employed by the City of Mesquite. Plaintiffs' claims arose out of the death of their 18 year old son from self-inflicted head trauma while in police custody. He died after violently bashing his head over 40 times against the interior of a patrol car while being transported to jail.
The Fifth Circuit held that the complaint failed to allege facts that plausibly show the paramedics' deliberate indifference. In this case, plaintiffs alleged that the paramedics failed to provide additional care. However, the court held that precedent has consistently recognized that deliberate indifference cannot be inferred merely from a negligent or even a grossly negligent response to a substantial risk of serious harm. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of these claims.
The court held that there are genuine disputes of material fact as to whether Officer Scott, like Gafford and Heidelburg, acted with deliberate indifference to the son's serious medical needs. Furthermore, a reasonable jury could conclude that the Officers were either aware, or should have been aware, because it was so obvious, of an unjustifiably high risk to the son's health; they did nothing to seek medical attention; and they even misstated the severity of the son's condition to those who could have sought help. Accordingly, the court reversed the summary judgment dismissal of the deliberate indifference claims against the officers and remanded for further proceedings.