In April 1978, Canton police arrested Geraldine Harris. At the police station, Harris slumped to the floor on two occasions and was eventually left there to prevent her from falling again. When asked if she needed medical attention, she responded with an incoherent remark. No officer summoned medical assistance for her. After her release about an hour later, Harris went to the hospital by an ambulance provided by her family and was diagnosed as “suffering from emotional aliments.” She remained in the hospital for a week and then required outpatient treatment for a year after. Years later, Harris brought claims of negligence against the Canton Police Department. She argued that her Fourth Amendment right to due process was violated when the police failed to provide her medical attention while in custody. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in November 1988.

In February 1989 the Supreme Court ruled that local governments can be liable for monetary damages when deliberate indifference to the need for training and failure to train officers result in constitutional violations. The case was sent back to the lower court to reconsider Harris's claims in light of the Supreme Court's new standard.

John A. Powell, Steven R. Shapiro, Howard A. Friedman, and Michael Aaron Avery filed an amicus brief for the national ACLU supporting Harris's Fourth Amendment claims.

Read the decision here.

Date filed

April 1, 1978