A federal judge has ruled a lawsuit against a former Selma police officer who allegedly handcuffing a hospital employee who refused to take a blood sample from a DWI suspect without a warrant can move forward.
In November 2015, Officer Travis Abbott and the Town of Selma was named in a lawsuit in Johnston County Superior Court filed by an employee at Johnston Memorial Hospital in Smithfield. The case was later moved to federal court where attorneys for the Town attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed.
However, Chief US District Judge James C. Dever III issued an order recently denying Selma’s request to have the lawsuit dropped. The case against Abbott, named in his official capacity and personally, can now move forward.
Crystal Reimann, an employee in the emergency department at Johnston Memorial filed the lawsuit saying she was injured by the officer after he handcuffed her for refusing to illegally take a blood sample from a drunk driving suspect because the officer did not have a warrant.
According to the lawsuit, around 1:00am on November 12, 2013, Officer Abbott brought a DWI suspect to the hospital demanding that the emergency room (ER) staff draw the suspect’s blood. The lab technician told Abbott she was not allowed to draw blood without a court order if the individual was not willing to consent.
Immediately, the lawsuit contends Abbott became loud and argumentative and began threatening Leanne Ventura, a charge nurse in the ER, he would take her before District Court Judge Andy Corbett for not drawing the suspect’s blood.
To be sure about the situation, Reimann contacted Donna Gibbons, the compliance officer who confirmed she should not draw the patient’s blood without a court order from a judge. Reimann went to speak with Officer Abbott when he turned around and alleged shouted, “Are you the one that is refusing to draw this blood?”
Reimann attempted to calmly explain what she was told to do when Abbott said, “I am going to get this blood if I have to mop it off the floor.”
Officer Abbott then informed Reimann, “You are under arrest and you are going to jail.”
The lawsuit said the officer spun Reimann around nearly knocking her off balance and grabbed her right hand which was in an arm brace. Reimann asked Officer Abbott not to bend her hand due to surgery, when he shouted, “That’s your problem, not mine.”
Abbott placed the handcuff through a loop in the hand brace and called his dispatcher stating, “I have the head nurse in cuffs and I am bringing her in.” He is accused of pulling and shoving the hospital worker through the emergency room in a “rough manner”, even after telling the officer she had a boot on her left foot due to several stress fractures.
Nurses in the ER began calling 911 and a doctor called a supervisor with the Selma Police Department.
Abbott suddenly reappeared, the complaint states, and removed the handcuffs and a supervisor from the Selma Police Department “relieved Abbott of his duties and took the patient to jail.”
The lawsuit said the ER was filled with patients, children, hospital staff and the incident “completely paralyzed the emergency department from functioning for more than two hours.”
The complaint contents Reimann was simply doing her job and following rules and regulations when Officer Abbott’s actions caused serious and permanent physical, psychological and emotional injuries resulting in substantial medical expenses and a permanent disability. The lawsuit says the police officer’s actions were malicious, intentional and reckless, and as a result of her injuries she will require future surgeries, diagnostic procedures and medical procedures to heal and correct her injuries.
The lawsuit alleges the Selma officer was negligent, performed an illegal arrest, is guilty of battery and false imprisonment, and used excessive force.
The Town of Selma is being represented by Attorney Dan Hartzog with the law firm of Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog of Raleigh. “As you know, the case is currently pending in federal court and is in the early stages of the litigation process,” Hartzog told WTSB News on Wednesday, “and for that reason, I am not able to comment on it.”
The federal lawsuit seeks in excess of $25,000 for compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages and legal fees. The lawsuit was filed by prominent Smithfield attorney Jack O’Hale with Narron, O’Hale and Whittington, P.A.
As for the DWI suspect, he was taken before a magistrate by another Selma police officer and released due to a lack of probable cause. JoCoReport.com Photo