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Four Tops Singer files lawsuit against hospital over ER incident

The lead singer of Motown’s The Four Tops is suing a Detroit hospital over allegations that workers “assumed he was mentally ill” and put him in a straightjacket when he told them he was a famous musician.

In a complaint filed Monday in Michigan federal court, the singer said Alexander Morris claims that when he visited the emergency room at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital in April 2023 for difficulty breathing and chest pain, he was met with racial profiling and unfair treatment as if he was “delusional.”

Even though he was showing “clear signs of heart failure” and had had such problems in the past, Morris claims that staff took him off oxygen and ordered a psychological evaluation after he “revealed his identity as a celebrity.” When Morris offered to prove his identity, a white security guard told him to “put your black ass down” and physically restrained him.

“The plaintiff was carrying a valid form of identification and could easily be identified as the Four Tops singer,” Morris’ lawyers write. “Defendant hospital… flagrantly refused to provide plaintiff with treatment based on his race and/or alleged mental disability.”

Eventually, Morris says, his wife arrived and learned “that the doctors thought he was delusional.” When he managed to show a nurse “a video of him performing at the Grammy Awards,” he claims the hospital finally agreed to cancel the psychiatric evaluation. He was ultimately diagnosed with a heart attack and given what he said was an insulting mea culpa.

“The plaintiff was offered a $25 Meijers gift card as an apology for the dehumanization and discrimination he faced from the hospital,” the singer’s lawyers write. “He refused to accept the gift card.”

Formed in the early 1950s, The Four Tops achieved enormous success in the 1960s and contributed to the development of the burgeoning Motown record label. The original lineup of Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton has stayed together for over 40 years and is 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 publicized his alleged ordeals in the past. Last spring, he threatened to sue over the alleged incident, claiming it would take “two minutes” to verify his identity: “My health should come first.”

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

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