- Associated Press - Monday, July 21, 2014

CINCINNATI (AP) - An elderly Ohio couple’s claims that police illegally broke into their home and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on them have been revived in an appeals court decision Monday that said officers conducted “a violent, traumatic invasion” with “an alarming and unnecessary show of force.”

The decision from a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati overturns a federal judge’s ruling dismissing the entire lawsuit filed by Essex and Annie Hayward, a Cleveland couple in their 80s, and their son against the Cleveland Clinic, the medical center’s police department and a number of officers.

The appeals panel found that the judge improperly threw out the Haywards’ claims of illegal entry and intentional infliction of emotional distress, meaning those accusations can move forward to a trial.

The 6th Circuit declined to reverse the lower court’s dismissal of a number of other claims, including the couple’s claims that they were assaulted and all accusations alleged by their son, Aaron Hayward, including excessive use of force.

In their lawsuit, the Haywards accuse Cleveland Clinic police of following their son, Aaron Hayward home on Jan. 23, 2011, over minor traffic violations but never turning on their sirens or lights.

After Aaron Hayward, then 38, parked, he ignored the officer’s order to walk over to him and instead went inside his house, prompting the officer to call for backup and five more officers to arrive, the lawsuit alleges.

Essex and Annie Hayward, then 85 and 78 years old, respectively, said they woke to pounding on their front door and officers cursing to open up but decided to call the Cleveland Police Department when they realized the officers were from the Cleveland Clinic.

They Haywards say that as they were calling Cleveland police, the officers outside busted through a security door, and Aaron Hayward used his foot and body to hold them back from the main, wooden door.

As a struggle ensued, the lawsuit says the officers used the butt of a shotgun to shatter the main door’s small window and shocked Aaron Hayward twice with a stun gun, allowing them to break in, the lawsuit alleges.

The family then says police shocked Aaron Hayward a third time, dragged him outside to the driveway, beat him with batons, and kicked him in the head, all while calling him racial slurs. The Haywards are black.

Aaron Hayward was arrested and later pleaded guilty to willfully fleeing a police officer and resisting arrest.

The court declined to pass judgment on whether the officers used excessive force against Aaron Hayward, saying his claims were barred by a Supreme Court ruling limiting civil rights claims from some plaintiffs.

Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said in a statement the medical center is pleased the court upheld the dismissal of the charges lodged by Aaron Hayward and called the ruling a procedural step allowing his parents to present any evidence of their claims.

She said the clinic’s officers acted lawfully and appropriately and denied they ever used racial slurs. Cleveland Clinic officers are licensed by the state and have arrest power.

Sheil said the officers observed the traffic offense on a street that runs through campus. The Haywards’ house is a few blocks from campus, she said.

In allowing two claims by Essex and Annie Hayward to go to trial, the 6th Circuit found that the couple had cited sufficient facts and case law to support their arguments that officers broke into their home without an arrest warrant, exigent circumstances or a hot pursuit.

The court said they also make a plausible claim that the officers’ conduct “was so extreme and outrageous as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and was such that it can be considered as utterly intolerable in a civilized community.”

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Follow Amanda Lee Myers on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaLeeAP

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