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Timmons v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

307 S.W.3d 735 (2009)

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Timmons v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Tennessee Court of Appeals

307 S.W.3d 735 (2009)

Facts

Ronald Timmons (plaintiff), a Type I diabetic, went into insulin shock while driving, blacked out, and had a minor collision. Police found Timmons sitting in his driver’s seat, clutching the steering wheel with both hands. Timmons’s body was rigid, his eyes were red and watery, and he was completely unresponsive to questions. Police mistakenly believed that Timmons was intoxicated. Several police officers pulled Timmons from his car. Officer Pilarski put Timmons face-down in a prone position. Pilarski handcuffed Timmons’s left wrist and directed a stronger officer to wrangle Timmons’s right arm from where it was pinned beneath his body. During the handcuffing effort, the officers fractured Timmons’s right arm. After Timmons was placed in the back of a police car, paramedics determined that he was in shock and his right arm was injured. Timmons was transported to receive medical care. When three police officers later filed documentation explaining their use of force, Pilarski was the sole officer who believed that Timmons was actively resisting arrest. Timmons filed a negligence lawsuit against the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County (Metropolitan Government) (defendant). The trial court determined that Metropolitan Government’s police officers were trained to use the prone position for handcuffing only if the arrestee was thought to be a high risk, either because the person was a violent felon, was armed, had a history of resisting arrest, or was actively resisting arrest. The trial court also determined that there are significantly higher risks of injury associated with prone handcuffing than there are with handcuffing a standing arrestee. The trial court held that Metropolitan Government was liable for its police officers’ negligence and awarded Timmons over $140,000 in damages and discretionary costs. Metropolitan Government appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Clement, J.)

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