JERI LYNN RICH, as representative for Gavrila Covaci Dupuis-Mays, an incapacitated person, Plaintiff-Appellee,
MICHAEL PALKO; KEITH DUANE HUDGENS, Defendants-Appellants.
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas
KING, SMITH, and WILLETT, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Rich sued Michael Palko and Keith Hudgens of the McKinney
Police Department ("MPD") on behalf of her adopted
son, Gavrila Dupuis-Mays, who has been declared an
incapacitated person by the State of Texas. Rich sought
damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the
officers had violated Dupuis-Mays's Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. The district court denied the officers'
motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity
("QI"). We reverse and render a judgment of
dismissal with prejudice.
sustained a brain injury as an infant and has cerebral palsy,
mental retardation, bi-polar disorder, depression, ADHD, and
epilepsy. On July 2, 2015, he was admitted for inpatient
psychiatric evaluation for depressed ideation. He was
released on July 10, 2015, and returned to a group home in
McKinney, Texas, where he had been living.
July 10 and 11, MPD was called to the group home four times
because Dupuis-Mays kept trying to run away. The final of
those visits stemmed from a 911 call made by
Dupuis-Mays's caseworker, Rhonda Holley, on Saturday July
11 at 2:01 a.m. Holley asked police to transport
Dupuis-Mays to Green Oaks Hospital, explaining that
Dupuis-Mays needed inpatient care because he was "in a
psychotic phase, where he is verbally and physically
aggressive towards staff." Holley confirmed that
Dupuis-Mays had not hit anyone that night but was
"covered in feces and refusing to bathe." Holley
told the 911 operator that she had initially called Green
Oaks, and they recommended that she call 911.
and Hudgens responded. When they arrived at the group home,
they briefly conversed with one of Dupuis-Mays's
caretakers, who reported that Dupuis-Mays was becoming
increasingly psychotic and that Green Oaks directed the group
home staff to bring him in for care. She further explained
that neither she nor other staff members felt safe
transporting Dupuis-Mays to Green Oaks: He was
"threatening" Holley, and "he just threatened
our children," who were present that night.
officers approached Dupuis-Mays, who was covered in feces,
and dialogued with him at length. At the officers'
urging, Dupuis-Mays eventually agreed to shower and change
clothes. Holley told the officers what had precipitated her
911 call. Dupuis-Mays had defecated on himself and had
removed his clothes and put them on the porch. He had
scattered tables in the home's backyard and refused to
follow staff instructions. Staff members also reported that
Dupuis-Mays's aggression had been increasing and that his
psychiatrist told the staff that their only option until
Monday was to transport Dupuis-Mays back to Green Oaks for an
assessment. Dupuis-Mays's doctors had called Dupuis-Mays
Dupuis-Mays had showered and dressed, he voluntarily
approached the officers and smoked a cigarette while talking
with them. After about ten minutes, the officers told
Dupuis-Mays that he would be going for a ride in the police
car; they handcuffed and led him to the police car. The three
talked casually during the ride to Green Oaks and arrived
officers led Dupuis-Mays, still handcuffed, into the Green
Oaks waiting room and seated him in a chair near the door to
the triage room. Dupuis-Mays eventually stood up from the
chair and began talking to the officers, saying, among other
things, "I'll be glad you go to hell
[sic]," and "I hate police officers."
At least two other patients were in the waiting room. After
Dupuis-Mays refused to sit down, the officers retuned him to
his chair. A few seconds later, Dupuis-Mays spat toward
Palko's face. The officers turned away from the spitting
before approaching Dupuis-Mays, moving his head between his
legs, and holding him in that position for about five
minutes. The video and audio indicate that Dupuis-Mays
continued spitting at and berating the officers, even with
his head between his legs.
was called back to the triage room, where quarters were
tight: He was seated in a chair in one corner of the room
with a small file cabinet directly to his right and the
triage nurse's desk to the right of the cabinet. A second
file cabinet was in the corner opposite Dupuis-Mays, about
three to four feet in front of him. The officers stood by a
door catty-corner from Dupuis-Mays. Because of the file
cabinets' positioning, the corridor from the officers to
Dupuis-Mays was narrow.
couple of minutes, Dupuis-Mays grew agitated and began
saying, "I hate police officers! I hate 'em!"
The triage nurse urged him to "stay calm," but
Dupuis-Mays retorted, "Hell no!" The officers tried
to pacify him, encouraging him that they were being nice.
Dupuis-Mays continued, however, in escalating volume, "I
hate police officers! F*** them police officers! I hope cops
die!" "Do you really mean what you say?" Palko
queried, to which Dupuis-Mays responded, "I hope you
die!" "That's really mean of you to say,"
Palko answered calmly.
nurse left the room, leaving the officers with Dupuis-Mays.
About twenty seconds later, Dupuis-Mays spat toward Detective
Palko, who stepped back, and told him, "Don't spit
on me, Bud." Dupuis-Mays then leaned forward, stared at
Palko, and spat directly at his face.
stepped across the room toward Dupuis-Mays through the
opening left by the two file cabinets. Palko placed both of
his hands on Dupuis-Mays's head and began moving him down
and diagonally from his chair to the middle of the room.
Palko stood with his body in front of the corner filing
cabinet, his left foot in front of and parallel with the
cabinet's side. Palko's eyes were consistently
directed downward-not toward the file cabinet. Hudgens also
approached and placed his right hand on Dupuis-Mays's
shoulder blade and his left hand on Dupuis-Mays's
handcuffed hands. Midway to the ground, Dupuis- Mays's
torso began to turn toward the corner cabinet, his foot
apparently caught behind the file cabinet directly to the
right of his chair. Palko was still in front of the corner
cabinet. As Dupuis-Mays twisted, Palko's left elbow
bumped the corner cabinet, his hand fell off Dupuis-May's
head, and Dupuis-Mays's head fell into the corner
cabinet. Notably, Palko did not have a hand on
Dupuis-Mays's head as Dupuis-Mays fell into the cabinet.
officers promptly helped Dupuis-Mays up and carefully moved
him to a seated position on the floor. They did not apply
additional force. Dupuis-Mays's head was bleeding
significantly, and he sustained a five-inch gash.
filed a post-incident report with MPD. That report did not
comport with the video from the triage room, so MPD began an
internal affairs investigation, during which MPD Sergeant
Agan spoke to Palko, who accurately recalled and recounted
the events. Hudgens later watched the video, listened to the
audio, and corrected his report.
sued Palko and Hudgens under § 1983, claiming that they
had violated Dupuis-Mays's Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendment rights. The officers moved to dismiss for failure
to state a claim, and the district court granted the motion
respecting Rich's Eighth Amendment claim. But the court
deferred the remaining claims for disposition after discovery
on whether the officers were entitled to QI. Following
discovery, the officers moved for summary judgment on grounds