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Four Tops singer sues hospital, says he was put in restraint jacket after sharing celebrity status

Alexander Morris alleges the hospital thought he was mentally ill and didn't believe he was part of the Motown group, famous for "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" and other hits.
Four Tops
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 12, 2024

The lead singer of the Four Tops has sued a Detroit-area hospital for racial discrimination, claiming its staff placed him into a restraining jacket and ordered a psychiatric evaluation because they didn't believe he was a public figure.

Alexander Morris, who joined the iconic Motown quartet in 2018, says in the lawsuit that he arrived at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, Michigan, via ambulance on April 7, 2023 showing signs of cardiac distress. In the emergency room, he says he told a nurse and security guard — who are also both listed as defendants — of his standing in the Four Tops because he had security concerns about stalkers and fans.

The Four Tops — known for establishing the Motown Sound in the late 1950s and beyond with No. 1 hits like "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" in 1965 and "Reach Out I'll Be There" in 1966 — were on a national tour with the Temptations and had recently performed at the Grammy Awards when Morris was admitted to Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital.

But Morris, who is Black, says the nurse, a White security guard and a White emergency room doctor didn't believe his status in the group. He alleges in the lawsuit they racially profiled him and "wrongfully assumed he was mentally ill," deciding to pursue a psychiatric evaluation instead of "ordering the emergency medical treatment he needed," per the suit.

Morris — who had a history of cardiac disease including the placement of stents and defibrillator, the suit states — was removed from oxygen on the doctor's decision, and a security guard was instructed to place him into a "restraining jacket and/or a four-point restraint mechanism" and remove his belongings, the suit alleges.

Morris said he asked the security guard if he could prove who he is through his ID, and the man ordered him to "sit his Black ass down," according to the suit. He alleges four nurses heard the comment but didn't intervene to stop the "racial discrimination and mistreatment."

The plaintiff said he was ignored when he asked for the oxygen back, as he was having difficulty breathing, and alleges the hospital wouldn't remove him from the restraints or return his devices so that he could leave, "thus he was falsely imprisoned and deprived of his personal property." Morris alleges his medical condition continuously declined as he was denied the medical treatment "he desperately needed."

A nurse later realized Morris truly was a member of the Four Tops after he asked to show a video of their Grammy Awards performance, which was around the date he arrived at the hospital, the lawsuit states. The nurse informed the emergency doctor, who then canceled the psychological evaluation.

Richard Gadd, right, creator and star of "Baby Reindeer," poses with fellow cast member Jessica Gunning.

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In total, Morris alleges he was restrained and without oxygen for 90 minutes. He was ultimately diagnosed with heart infraction, which may require a future heart transplant, and he suffered pneumonia and three seizures during his stay at the hospital.

The singer says the hospital offered him a $25 gift card to Meijer supermarkets as an "apology for the dehumanization and discrimination he faced" there, but he "refused to accept it," per the lawsuit.

He also claims in the lawsuit that another security guard informed him that the guard who restrained Morris had made racist jokes and used excessive force with other patients. This other guard also allegedly told Morris that he witnessed employees "tampering with the internal incident report" related to the singer's hospitalization, including that they removed the defendant's use of a racial slur.

Morris' suit brings claims of racial discrimination, violation of civil rights, negligence, gross negligence, battery, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He seeks more than $75,000 in damages at a jury trial.

In response to the lawsuit, the hospital said, "We remain committed to honoring human dignity and acting with integrity and compassion for all persons and the community. We do not condone racial discrimination of any kind. We will not comment on pending litigation."