(CN) – The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of a wrongful death claim brought by the estate of a heavy woman who died after she was hogtied by police.
Debbie Loggins was fighting with Patricia McChristian when police arrived to break up the brawl. When police ordered the women to put their hands up, Loggins raised one hand while keeping McChristian in a headlock.
Loggins then attacked an officer with a flashlight. Police finally subdued her with handcuffs and leg restraints.
The police had trouble getting the 5-foot-4, 220-pound Loggins into the squad car, so they hogtied her by linking the handcuffs with the leg restraints. Loggins struggled throughout the process, and police finally placed her on her stomach in the back of the squad car.
When they arrived at the county jail, Loggins did not have a pulse. A jailer’s attempt at CPR was unsuccessful, and Loggins was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
The autopsy revealed that Loggins had died accidentally of “excessive exertion with changes of physical exhaustion.”
Loggins’ estate filed a federal wrongful death claim, which was dismissed. The district court said the estate had not established enough of a link between the hogtying and Loggins’ obesity to constitute excessive force.
The lower court also held that, “given the totality of the circumstances, the force used was necessary.”
The estate took the case to state court, filing a tort claim that the deputies showed reckless disregard for Loggins’ safety.
The trial court dismissed the lawsuit as a repeat of the already-decided federal claim, a legal doctrine known as res judicata.
The state high court affirmed.
“The ruling by the federal court was a final jurisdiction on the merits. Moreover, the four elements of res judicata are sufficiently met, and (the estate’s) current action is barred,” Justice Pierce wrote.