A victim’s family is blaming Southaven police for using brutal and unlawful tactics, which led to the man’s sudden death.
The lawsuit filed in Tennessee federal court demands $150,000 in damages for the wrongful death of 30-year-old Troy Goode of Memphis. According to court documents, Mr. Goode and his wife, Kelli, attended a rock concert in Southaven in July 2018. Mr. Goode had consumed LSD before the event, and his erratic behavior prompted a witness to call in a report of a possible domestic abuse situation. According to the lawsuit, responding officers used a large attack dog and multiple Taser blasts to subdue Mr. Goode before hog-tying him. Authorities then allegedly allowed Mr. Goode to suffocate, despite his apparent trouble breathing.
City officials defended the officers’ actions. Mayor Darren Musselwhite insisted that officers were force to restrain Mr. Goode due to his violent behavior and did not use excessive force. The coroner ruled Mr. Goode’s death accidental, and “complications from LSD toxicity” was the primary contributing factor.
In addition to the Southaven Police Department, the lawsuit names Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto and the attending physician as defendants.
For a long time, government agencies were immune from lawsuits under the concept of sovereign immunity. This idea originated from the “divine right of kings” in the Middle Ages, and held that leaders could do no wrong so their decisions, or indecisions, could never be questioned.
Most states have waived their sovereign immunity, and Tennessee has a comprehensive tort claims act that applies in these situations. In a nutshell, government employees can be sued if their actions, or inactions, would constitute negligence if they were civilians. The tort claims act specifically includes:
- Dangerous property conditions,
- Careless operation of state-owned machinery or vehicles,
- Breach of contract, and
- Professional malpractice.
A special procedure applies in these cases. Injured victims must file a notice of claim and give the city, county, state, or other government entity an opportunity to settle the matter. If a resolution is not achieved, the victim may sue in court, in most cases. Strict time deadlines apply throughout this entire process.
The tort claims act does not always apply. Many times, a locality or other institution is negligent in performing its proprietary duties. This term is not very well defined, but it generally means those functions which do not require any official discretion, such as providing utility service or performing road maintenance.
If a proprietary function is at issue, there is generally no requirement to go through the notice of claim process. It is important to reach out to an attorney at the earliest possible moment, to determine which avenue is appropriate.
In either case, under the doctrine of respondeat superior, the government body that employed the tortfeasor (negligent actor) is liable for damages.
Official immunity is far from unlimited. If you or a loved one was injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence, contact a personal injury attorney in Memphis today for a free consultation. After hours and hospital visits are generally available.