James Michael was a twenty-six-year-old black male who worked in an oil refinery. One Friday night after work, James met several of his coworkers at a local bar to celebrate an across-the-board pay raise in their division. The party lasted five hours, during which James drank somewhere around a dozen mixed drinks, several of them doubles, thanks to a generous bartender. James left the bar shortly after 10:00 p.m. and proceeded to drive home. No one is certain how the accident took place; James fell asleep, could not see properly, or lost control of his car and crashed into a telephone pole. The impact was on the passenger side of the vehicle. When the police arrived on the scene, they found James lying in a fetal position on the street next to his car. He had, apparently, managed to climb out of the car, but had not gotten very far. The police helped him to his feet. He had no visible injuries, but he was obviously intoxicated. The police asked him if he was all right, and he responded that he was—he just wanted to go home. He was arrested for driving while intoxicated and taken to the city jail.
During the booking procedure, he was asked if he was under a doctor’s care. He said that he was not. He was also asked if he needed medical care. He said that he did not. It was now nearly midnight, and James was placed in a cell with several other men, all of whom were sleeping. James promptly fell asleep himself. Several hours later, an officer came to see if James was sober enough to call a bail bondsman. But James was dead. An autopsy revealed that death was the result of massive internal injuries. James’ family brought suit against the city’s police department, charging the police with criminal negligence. The case went to trial. The jury found that the police had acted entirely appropriately and were guilty of no negligence or other wrongdoing. James’ family left the court facing legal fees of seven thousand dollars.