Wednesday, January 1, 2014

City of Louisville v Humphrey case brief

City of Louisville v Humphrey case brief summary
461 S.W.2d 352

CASE SYNOPSIS
Defendant city challenged an order from the trial court (Kentucky), which entered judgment on a verdict for plaintiff widow 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 widow's theory of the case was 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.

CASE FACTS
The deceased was put in the city's drunk tank for the night, and in the morning he was found unconscious with a subdural hematoma. He died after brain surgery, and the widow filed suit on the theory that the deceased did not receive any serious injuries before his arrest. The neurosurgeon testified substantially that the injuries received by deceased were certainly inflicted less than 48 hours, and probably less than 36 hours, before his diagnosis. The jury found for the widow.

DISCUSSION
  • On appeal, the court reversed, holding that there was no direct evidence that any of the prison employees inflicted the injuries on the deceased. 
  • Neither was there any direct evidence that those injuries were inflicted by a fellow prisoner. 
  • The court rejected the widow's argument that the proof warranted the application of res ipsa loquitur because, although the evidence came pretty close to creating an inference that the deceased received his injuries while he was in the custody of the city jail, it fell short of justifying res ipsa loquitur.
  • The court would not speculate as to whether the injuries were caused by the city employees or whether they were inflicted by a fellow prisoner.
CONCLUSION
The court reversed the judgment in favor of the widow, with directions to enter an order sustaining the city's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

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