Lawsuit from Four Tops singer claims hospital racially profiled and restrained him after rejecting claims of his identity

Lawsuit from Four Tops singer claims hospital racially profiled and restrained him after rejecting claims of his identity

The lead singer of the Four Tops is suing a Michigan hospital, accusing some of its employees of “racial profiling” after he was restrained and denied medical treatment when they didn’t believe he was a member of the famed Motown group.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court, Alexander Morris said an ambulance brought him in April 2023 to the emergency room at Ascension Macomb Oakland Hospital in Warren, Mich., for chest pain and difficulty breathing.

When he arrived at the hospital, Morris said, he “informed a nurse and a security guard that he was a member of the famous Motown group the ‘Four Tops,’ and that he had current security concerns due to stalkers and fans.”

Morris, who’s performed with the Four Tops since 2019, accuses nurse Holly Jackson and security guard Greg Ciesielski, who are named as defendants in the suit and described as white, of racially profiling him “based upon a perceived disability” and “placed an order for a psychological evaluation” for him because “they did not believe he was a singer or member of the ‘Four Tops.'”

The defendants, the lawsuit said, “wrongfully assumed he was mentally ill when he revealed his identity as a celebrity figure” and “made the decision to remove him from oxygen and pursue a psychiatric evaluation instead despite his clear symptoms of cardiac distress and significant medical history.”

The suit notes that despite Morris having an ID which “could easily have been identified as a singer in the Four Tops group,” he was “placed into a restraining jacket” and told he would receive a psychological evaluation.

When Morris asked if he could prove his identity as an entertainer by showing his ID card, the lawsuit said, Ciesielski “ordered him to ‘sit his Black ass down.'”

In a statement to ITK, a spokesperson for Ascension Macomb Oakland Hospital said it “will not comment on pending litigation.”

“The health, safety and well-being of our patients, associates and community members remains our top priority. 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,” the statement said.

Morris alleges that he told medical staff “he was having difficulty breathing and asked for the oxygen back but was ignored.” The entertainer then “asked to have the restraint device removed and asked for his personal belongings back so he could leave and seek treatment at another hospital, and he was told he was not free to leave; thus, he was falsely imprisoned and deprived of his personal property. During this time his medical condition continuously declined and he was denied the medical treatment he desperately needed.”

It was only after he offered to show a video of him performing at the Grammy Awards that a nurse realized Morris was a member of the Four Tops and the restraint was removed, he said in his lawsuit.

Morris “was offered a $25 gift card to [grocery store chain] Meijers as an apology for the dehumanization and discrimination he faced at the hands of the hospital. He refused to accept the gift card.”

The Four Tops member, whose group is behind such 1960s mega-hits as “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and “Reach Out I’ll be There,” said a security guard who worked at the hospital contacted him after the alleged incident and claimed that Ciesielski “made racist comments and jokes to him and other coworkers about African Americans, and that he frequently used excessive force with patients.” The same security guard also said he “witnessed employees tampering with the internal incident report” involving Morris.

Morris is seeking a jury trial and in excess of $75,000 in damages. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise Hood, an appointee of former President Clinton.

—Zach Schonfeld contributed. Updated at 5:10 p.m.

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