City of Louisville vs. Humprey – Law Research Summary (300 Level Course)
461 S.W. 2d 352 (1971)
1) Facts: The appellee obtained judgment on a verdict for $56,534.34 against appellant for injuries, resulting in the death of her husband, which she claimed he received after his arrest or while he was confined in the city’s jail. The city appeals. We reverse. Before stating the facts, we should emphasize the appellee’s theory of the case that her husband’s fatal injuries were inflicted by one or both of the two arresting officers, or by a jail employee, or by a fellow prisoner.
The deceased, Ruel McKinley Humphrey, a hard-workingman about 59 years of age with some drinking problems, was highly intoxicated about 2:15 a.m., the morning of November 21, 1966. He was wandering around
in the vicinity of Frankfort and Hite Avenues, near his home, when a report was received by Louisville Police Headquarters that he was shaking doors in that neighborhood. The officers proceeded to arrest him and to deliver him to the booking clerk at the city jail at 2:35 a.m. He was retained in the holdover department in the basement of the city jail until 4:15 a.m., when he was taken by elevator to the third floor of the jail. The two guards in charge of the third floor of the jail testified that immediately after the deceased stepped off the elevator on the third floor, he began to fall down or collapse. One of the guards caught him and lightened his fall. Shortly thereafter he was dragged by the two guards to the ‘drunk tank’ and left lying on the floor with his feet toward the entrance of the tank. Two of the jail employees testified that no one else was in the ‘drunk tank’ while the Deceased was there. However, a third employee testified that the believed there was another prisoner in the ‘drunk tank’ during that time. At 7:15 a.m. a jail guard attempted to awaken deceased in order that he might appear in court that morning. The guard was unable to arouse him, concluding that Humphrey was in a high state of intoxication. At noon the guard again attempted to arouse him without success. He was then taken to Louisville General Hospital and found to be unconscious with a sub dural hematoma from injuries apparently received around the left eye and forehead. He underwent brain surgery and died on December 13, 1966.
2) Judicial History: The appellee obtained judgment on a verdict for $56,534.34 against appellant for injuries, resulting in the death of her husband, which she claimed he received after his arrest or while he was confined in the city’s jail. The city appeals and the courts ruled in their favor.
3) Issues: Whether the court erred in finding for the plaintiff in the circuit court case, where her husband may have had inflicted injuries while in the custody of the Louisville police. Whether or not Res Ipsa Loquitor will apply to this case.
4) Rules: Res Ipsa Loquitor, and Liability
5) Analysis: There is no concluding evidence that the deceased received these injuries while in custody of the Louisville police department. Res Ispa Loquitor will not apply to this circumstance because it is not known whether the prisoner received these from the police or by a fellow prisoner.
6) Conclusion: The Court ruled on behalf of the city sustaining the appellant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.