Part two: case summaries by major topic.

PositionP. 75-114 - Case overview
  1. MAIL

    U.S. District Court




    Duran v. Merline, 923 F.Supp.2d 702 (D.N.J.,2013). A former pretrial detainee at a county detention facility brought a pro se [section] 1983 action against various facility officials and employees, the company which provided food and sanitation services to the facility, and the medical services provider, alleging various constitutional torts related to his pretrial detention. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motions in part and denied in part. The district court held that fact issues precluded summary judgment on: (1) the conditions of confinement claim against a former warden in his official capacity; (2) an interference with legal mail claim against a correctional officer that alleged that the facility deliberately withheld the detainee's legal mail during a two-week period; (3) a First Amendment retaliation claim based on interference with legal mail; and (4) a claim for inadequate medical care as to whether the detainee's Hepatitis C condition was a serious medical condition that required treatment and whether the provider denied such treatment because it was too costly. (Atlantic County Justice Facility, New Jersey)

    U.S. District Court



    Lineberry v. Federal Bureau of Prisons, 923 F.Supp.2d 284 (D.D.C. 2013). A federal prisoner brought an action against the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and prison official under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) and Bivens, alleging he was denied access to the postal service in violation of his First Amendment rights. The district court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. The court held that the prisoner's admitted failure to submit a claim to the Bureau of Prisons prior to filing his lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) alleging BOP's mail regulations violated his First Amendment rights, deprived the district court of subject matter jurisdiction. According to the court, the prisoner's allegations that neither his counselor nor his unit manager provided him the appropriate form for submitting a formal inmate grievance, and that without access to the first step of the process, he could not have been expected to complete the process, were sufficient to allege that circumstances' rendered administrative remedies effectively unavailable, such as would excuse the prisoner from exhausting his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA). The court found that neither the requirement of a mailing label generated by the Bureau of Prisons' (BOP) mail system, nor the return of mail lacking such a label, violated the prisoner's First Amendment rights, and the prisoner provided no factual allegations to support his conclusory claims that the system denied him access to the press, the establishment or exercise of religion, and peaceable assembly. (Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas)


    U.S. District Court



    Coleman v. Schwarzenegger, 922 F.Supp.2d 882 (E.D.Cal. 2009). State prisoners brought class actions against a governor and other officials, alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement as to the provision of medical and mental health care. After granting a correctional officer association's motion to intervene as a plaintiff, the motion to convene a three-judge panel was granted, to consider plaintiffs' request for order to reduce prison population. The court held that clear and convincing evidence established that overcrowding was the primary cause of the provision of inadequate medical and mental health care; (2) deficiencies in the provision of medical and mental health care could not be resolved in the absence of a prisoner release order; (3) reduction in the California state prison population to a system-wide cap was warranted; (4) the court's order was the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violations, as required by PLRA; and (5) reduction in the California state prison population to a system-wide cap of 137.5% was warranted. (California Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections)

    U.S. District Court





    Coffey v. U.S., 906 F.Supp.2d 1114 (D.N.M. 2012). The mother of a decedent, a Native American who died in a county correctional institution, brought actions on behalf of her son and his children against the government, alleging wrongful death and negligence claims arising from his treatment while in the institution. After a two-day bench trial, the district court found that: (1) the notice provided to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BLA) in the mother's administrative claim was sufficient, thereby providing jurisdiction over the mother's wrongful death and negligence claims; (2) the BIA's decision whether to screen and transfer the inmate were not choices susceptible to policy analysis, and thus, the discretionary-function exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) did not preclude jurisdiction; (3) the mother's negligent screening claims were precluded; (4) the mother's negligent transfer claims were precluded; and (5) the mother's wrongful death claims, arising under FTCA, were precluded. The mother had filed a standard two-page form and submitted it to Indian Health Services and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), claiming that her son was denied medication, and that he was transferred by BLA to another correctional facility. The district court concluded that the United States Government was not liable for the detainee's death. (U.S. Department of the Interior-Bureau of Indian Affairs, McKinley County Detention Center, Nevada)

    U.S. District Court





    Dilworth v. Goldberg, 914 F.Supp.2d 433 (S.D.N.Y. 2012). A released pretrial detainee and his wife brought an action against a county, its health care corporation, and 47 related individuals, for federal and state claims arising from his confinement at a county jail. The district court partially dismissed the claims and the plaintiffs moved to amend. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The court found that New York's three-year limitations period began to run on the date in which the pretrial detainee was directed by an officer to sign fraudulent papers indicating he caused his own injuries and that would waive his legal claims against the county and jail officials. According to the court, it was appropriate for the now-released pretrial detainee to amend his complaint to assert his section 1983 unconstitutional conditions of confinement claim, under the Eighth Amendment, against the officer, since there were sufficient allegations in the proposed pleading to support the claim. The court noted that loss of consortium claims are not cognizable under [section] 1983 because they do not involve an injury based on a deprivation of the plaintiffs rights, privileges, and immunities.

    The detainee, an African-American, was detained in the jail when he slipped and fell on wet wax that had been left on a corridor floor by a trustee inmate. He "suffered severe injuries to his head, back, and right arm, and lost consciousness due to the fall." He was taken the jail infirmary and given a "cursory" examination, which allegedly resulted in the understatement of his actual medical condition. Rather than allowing him to return to his cell to rest, he was ordered to go to a visit and he was threatened with a charge of disobeying a direct order if he did not comply. He suffered several subsequent health problems but was not taken to an outside source of medical care. He was given a wheelchair and assigned to a dormitory with inmates who had medical problems. While confined in the dorm he was allegedly denied meals on several occasions, was not able to take a shower, and was refused pain medication. He alleged further complaints about his treatment and conditions. (Westchester County Department of Corrections, New York Medical College, Westchester County Health Care Corporation, New York)

    U.S. District Court







    Ferencz v. Medlock, 905 F.Supp.2d 656 (W.D.Pa. 2012). A mother, as administrator for her son's estate, brought deliberate indifference claims under a wrongful death statute against prison employees, and the prison's medical services provider, following the death of her son when he was a pretrial detainee in a county prison. The employees and provider moved to dismiss. The district court granted the motion in part and denied in part. The district court held that under Pennsylvania law, the mother lacked standing to bring wrongful death and survival actions in her individual capacity against several prison employees for her son's death while he was in prison, where the wrongful death and survival statutes only permitted recovery by a personal representative, such as a mother in her action as administratrix of her son's estate, or as a person entitled to recover damages as a trustee ad litem. The court found that the mother's claims that a prison's medical services provider had a policy, practice, or custom that resulted in her son's death were sufficient to overcome the provider's motion to dismiss the mother's [section] 1983 action for the death of her son while he was in prison.

    Upon admission to the facility, the detainee had been evaluated and scored a 12 on a scale, which was to have triggered classification as suicidal (a score of 8 or more). The Classification Committee subsequently did not classify the detainee as suicidal as they were required to do under the jail classification policy, and no member of the Committee communicated to medical contractor staff or correctional officers responsible for monitoring the detainee that he was suicidal and going through drug withdrawal. At the time, the jail was equipped with an operational and working video...

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