Wrongful Death Alleged in Mississippi Patient Restraint Case

The family of a Tennessee chemical engineer has filed suit against a Mississippi city claiming its police and fire departments are responsible for the mans asphyxiation death last July following his arrest.

Troy Charleton Goode died on July 18, 2015, following his arrest for public drunkenness and disorderly conduct adjacent to a concert in Southaven, Mississippi featuring the band Widespread Panic. Goode was reportedly under influence of LSD and marijuana when police restrained him, and paramedics transported him to the hospital.

Goode’s wife, Kelli, filed the action naming City of Southaven Fire Department and its police department claiming their “hog-tying” of Troy led to his death. According to the complaint, Troy “was arrested and placed in a five point restraint commonly known as “hog tying,” and died in Southaven, Desoto County, Mississippi, as a direct and proximate result of the unlawful and excessive restraints.”

Among the allegation in the complaint:

Facts Regarding Hogtying

  • The “hogtie” (also written as “hog-tie” and used as a verb) is a maximal restraint technique in which a person’s hands are bound behind their back, their feet are shackled, and the hands and feet are then connected to one another.
  • According to a May 1996 article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, the hogtie position is a “physically incapacitating position” which “makes it difficult for subjects to breathe and can cause them to die.” (Emphasis added).
  • The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin warning about hogtying further states that “[i]nterference with proper breathing produces an oxygen deficiency (known as hypoxia) in the blood, which disturbs the body’s chemistry and creates the conditions for a fatal rhythm disturbance in the heart.”
  • The National Law Enforcement Technology Center, an office within the United States Department of Justice, published an article in June 1995 which “presents information relevant to positional asphyxia—i.e. death as a result of body position that interferes with one’s ability to breathe.”
  • According to the Department of Justice article, police officers should “avoid the use of maximally prone restraint techniques (e.g. hogtying).” (emphasis added)
  • NYPD Guidelines to Preventing Deaths in Custody quoted in the Department of Justice, National Law Enforcement Technology Center article cited above include the following:
    • “As soon as the subject is handcuffed, get him off his stomach. Turn him on his side or place him in a seated position.” (emphasis in the original)
    • “Never tie the handcuffs to a leg or ankle restraint.”
    • “Do not lay the person on his stomach during transport to a station house or hospital. Instead, place him in a seated position.”
  • Training materials from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers Training Academy (the “Academy”) identify “positional asphyxia” as a danger of police restraint procedures.
  • The Academy trains officers that, “[w]hen a violator has been arrested, and handcuffed in a face-down position, Officers must get the suspect up to at least a ‘seated’ position as soon as possible.”
  • The Academy identifies prone restraint as a lethal technique: “[p]eople who remain on their stomachs for varying periods of time will suffocate themselves due to their own body weight.” (Emphasis added).

The complaint lists numerous studies detailing the dangers associated with hog-tying and positional asphyxia, including”

  • A 2012 study by Barnett, et al, found multiple statistically significant physiological impacts of prone restraint positions. Forced vital capacity, expiratory volume, heart rate, and oxygen saturation were measured. The researchers found that the use of prone restraint positions such as the hogtie restricted respiratory function and that the risk increased as pressure on the anterior chest wall increased.
  • A 2010 study by Ho, et al, found that the diameter of the inferior vena cava significantly decreased in size when a subject was placed prone and further significantly decreased in size when weight was added to the subject’s back. The researchers posited that the IVC compression may contribute to deaths occurring during police restraint.
  • A 2013 study by Chan, et al (who has admitted his studies may be biased due to conflicts of interest in favor of police), confirmed that IVC compression occurs during prone restraint with weight. The study also found statistically significant decreases in stroke volume and cardiac index during prone restraint.

The complaint names six individual firefighters as defendants, as well as police officers, Baptist Memorial Hospital, and doctors. The named firefighters are Stacie J. Graham, Mike Mueller, William Painter, Jr., Bruce K. Sebring, Joseph Spence, and Richard A. Weatherford. Among the medically related errors, the complaint alleges:

  • The Standard Operating Procedures for Emergency Medical Personnel in the State of Mississippi (the “SOPs”) forbid transporting a patient who is hogtied.
  • The SOPs provide for each of the following:
  • “Use the minimum amount of force and restraint necessary to safely accomplish patient care and transportation with regard to the patient’s dignity. Avoid unnecessary force.”
  • “After restraint, the patient should be placed in a supine”(emphasis added).
  • “Do not place restraints in a manner that may interfere with evaluation and treatment of the patient or in any way that may compromise patient’s respiratory effort.”
  • “After the individual is controlled, he/she shall be restrained to the stretcher or other transport device in the supine position.”(emphasis added)
  • DO NOT restrain patient in a hobbled, hog-tied, or prone position.” (Emphasis in the original).
  • “Padded or leather wrist or ankle straps are appropriate. Handcuffs and plastic ties are not considered soft restraints.”
  • “Never apply restraints near the patient’s neck or apply restraints or pressure in a fashion that restricts the patient’s respiratory effort.”
  • The SOPs warn that “[t]here is a risk of serious complications or death if patient continues to struggle violently against restraints.”

The complaint alleges civil conspiracy, use of excessive force/due process constitutional claim under 42 USC §1983, substantive due process violation under 42 USC §1983, deliberate indifference under 42 USC §1983, negligent supervision, failure to train, invasion of privacy, wrongful death, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and several additional counts.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Goode v City of Southaven

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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