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Posted: April 12, 2017

Federal appeals court ruling on incident involving Oklahoma law enforcement catches eyes of others


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By Katie Higgins

News | KOKI

TULSA, Okla. —

Quick facts:

  • A federal appeals court is set to hear a case involving Oklahoma law enforcement.
  • The case involved a man who said he was never given medical attention during an incident involving law enforcement.
  • The court ruled that law enforcement may be held liable in that sort of incident.
  • Officials from Utah and Colorado said the move could negatively impact law enforcement.
  • Download the FOX23 News app for the latest updates sent to your phone.

 

A ruling out of the United States 10th Circuit Court of Appeals involving Oklahoma law enforcement is catching the attentions of other states.

By hearing the case, the court has already set a precedent on how much liability law enforcement has when getting an injured person medical attention, and Utah and Colorado officials say they fear the ruling could negatively impact law enforcement.

The court moved to reverse a ruling by federal judges in Oklahoma and said officers can be held liable for making sure people in custody get medical attention if they are believed to be injured.

The move stems from an incident in which State Trooper Joe Jefferson went to check on Clyde Rife after concerned citizens said Rife was disoriented and slurring his speech.

Jefferson saw Rife slumped over his motorcycle and reportedly assumed Rife had taken too much medicine before noticing signs of an accident.


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Rife's attorney, Dan Smolen, said Rife, who had a lacerated spleen and other significant injuries, never saw a doctor.

Smolen says it's a violation of Rife's civil rights that he not receive medical care in that condition.

The order from the court of appeals says officers can be held liable, reversing a previous ruling made by a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma.

Colorado and Utah officials, disagree, saying the ruling takes away breathing room for police officers and sets a strict new precedent for law enforcement.

Rife reportedly complained of pain and discomfort multiple times on the hour-long drive to jail, but he never got medical attention.

The lawsuit claims he could have died.

 


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