Four Tops singer sues hospital over emergency room incident

The lead singer of Motown group The Four Tops is suing a Detroit-area hospital, alleging that staff “assumed he was mentally ill” and put him in a straitjacket when he told them he was a famous musician.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in federal court in Michigan Alexander Morris claims that when he visited the emergency room at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in April 2023 with difficulty breathing and chest pain, he was both racially profiled and unfairly treated as if he were suffering from “delusions.”

Despite showing “clear symptoms of heart trouble” and having a history of such problems, Morris said staff withdrew his oxygen and ordered a psychological evaluation after he “revealed his identity as a celebrity.” When he offered to prove his identity, Morris said a white security guard ordered him to “sit on his black butt” and physically restrained him.

“Plaintiff had a valid ID on him and could have easily been identified as the lead singer of the group Four Tops,” Morris’s lawyers wrote. “The defendant’s hospital … evidently denied plaintiff medical treatment based on his race and/or perceived mental disability.”

Eventually, Morris says, his wife came and learned “that the doctors thought he was delusional.” When he was able to show a nurse a “video of his performance at the Grammys,” the hospital finally agreed to cancel the psychiatric evaluation. He was eventually diagnosed with a heart attack – and offered what he says was an insulting plea of ​​guilt.

“Plaintiff was offered a $25.00 Meijers gift card as an apology for the dehumanization and discrimination he experienced in the hospital,” the singer’s attorneys wrote. “He refused to accept the gift card.”

Formed in the early 1950s, The Four Tops enjoyed great success in the 1960s, fueling the rise of the growing Motown record label. The original lineup, consisting of Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton, stayed together for over 40 years and are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fakir is the only original member still in the group.

Morris, who joined the group in 2019, has made his alleged ordeal public in the past. Last spring, he threatened to sue over the alleged incident, claiming that verifying his identity took “two minutes”: “My health should have come first.”

In a statement to Billboard On Tuesday, a spokesman for hospital owner Ascension said the company was “unable to provide details of the cases under investigation.”

“The health, safety and well-being of our patients, employees and community members remains our highest priority,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to respecting human dignity and acting with integrity and compassion toward all people and the community. We do not tolerate racial discrimination of any kind.”