Part Two: case summaries by major topic.

Position:P. 61-92 - Case overview
 
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  1. MENTAL PROBLEMS (PRISONER)

    U.S. District Court SUICIDE SUPERVISION

    Nagle v. Gusman, 61 F.Supp.3d 609 (E.D.La. 2014). Siblings of a mentally ill pretrial detainee who committed suicide brought an action against numerous employees of a parish sheriff's office, alleging a due process violation under [section] 1983, and asserting claims for wrongful death and negligence under state law. The siblings moved for partial summary judgment. The district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) a deputy had a duty to take reasonable measures to protect the detainee from self-inflicted harm; (2) the deputy breached his duty by failing to observe the detainee for long periods of time; (3) the deputy's abandonment of his post was the cause of the detainee's suicide; (4) the sheriff was vicariously liable; and (5) the deputy's repeated decision to abandon his post violated the detainee's due process right to adequate protection from his known suicidal impulses. According to the court, the detainee was suffering from psychosis and was suicidal while in custody, the detainee was placed on a suicide watch, suicide watch policies and training materials of the sheriff's office explicitly required officers to continuously monitor detainees on a suicide watch and to document that they had done so, and it was during one of the deputy's extended absences that the detainee succeeded in killing himself. The officer left his post at least three times during his suicide watch shift, to help another employee distribute meals to other inmates, to take a restroom break, and to visit the nurses' station. During these absences, the detainee went unobserved for an hour and a half, fifteen minutes, and two hours respectively. No other staff took the officer's place observing the detainee during the times when the officer abandoned his post. During the officer's final absence, an inmate notified an on-duty officer that the detainee was lying on the floor of his cell, unresponsive. It was later determined that the detainee had asphyxiated after his airway became blocked by a wad of toilet paper. (Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office, House of Detention at Orleans Parish Prison, Louisiana)

    U.S. District Court EVALUATION MEDICATION

    True blood v. Washington State Dept, of Social and Health Services, 73 F.Supp.3d 1311 (W.D.Wash. 2014). Pretrial detainees brought a class action against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services and two state hospitals, alleging that in-jail waiting times for court-ordered competency evaluations and restoration services violated their Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. The detainees moved for summary judgment. The district court granted the motion, finding that in-jail waiting times for court-ordered competency evaluations and restoration services violated the Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights of mentally incapacitated pretrial detainees. The court noted that detainees were incarcerated for many weeks, not because they were convicted, found to be dangerous, or posed a flight risk, but because Department of Social and Health Services and state hospitals did not have sufficient bed space or available staff to provide the services they were required to provide. Some detainees were held in solitary confinement due to space issues, exacerbating any mental illness, and the rate of medication compliance was lower in jail. (Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, Western State Hospital and Eastern State Hospital)

    U.S. Appeals Court SUICIDE

    Jackson v. West, 787 F.3d 1345 (11th Cir. 2015). The estate of a detainee who committed suicide while in the custody of a county jail brought a [section] 1983 action against a county sheriff and against 10 corrections officers, alleging violation of the detainee's due process rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of three officers on qualified immunity grounds, but denied summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds with respect to the remaining officers. The remaining officers filed an appeal. The appeals court reversed, finding that the officers lacked a subjective knowledge of a strong risk that the detainee would attempt suicide, so that the officers did not act with deliberate indifference in failing to prevent the suicide. The court noted that the detainee had made explicit suicide threats and he was placed in the suicide prevention unit, as was proper protocol, and the detainee was released from that unit when prison medical staff later determined that he no longer presented such a risk. The court stated: 'This case is troubling. The Marion County Jail tragically failed to keep Mr. James safe while he was incarcerated. Under our precedent, however, an officer is liable under [section] 1983 for the suicide of an inmate only if he had subjective knowledge of a serious risk that the inmate would commit suicide and he disregarded that known risk." (Marion County Jail, Florida)

    U.S. Appeals Court DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

    Lee v. Willey, 789 F.3d 673 (6th Cir. 2015). A former prisoner brought a [section] 1983 claim against a parttime prison psychiatrist, alleging that he suffered sexual abuse by another prisoner as a result of the psychiatrist's deliberate indifference to his health and safety in violation of the Eighth Amendment. The district court entered summary judgment in the psychiatrist's favor. The former prisoner appealed. The appeals court affirmed, finding that the district court's ruling that the former prisoner did not submit a substitute prison grievance letter was not clearly erroneous, and the former prisoner failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing his [section] 1983 claim. (Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center, Michigan)

    U.S. Appeals Court SUICIDE DELIBERATE INDIFFERENCE

    Letterman v. Does, 789 F.3d 856 (8th Cir. 2015). Parents of a deceased prisoner, who died from injuries suffered while in jail, brought a [section] 1983 action against a prison sergeant, lieutenant, and case manager, alleging that the employees were indifferent to the prisoner's medical needs. The prisoner had been arrested for possession of marijuana and was given a 120 "shock sentence" in confinement. He became suicidal and was transferred to a padded cell at the request of mental health personnel. He was to have been personally observed every 15 minutes by staff and procedure required the prisoner to give a verbal response each time. After a shift chance, the oncoming officer decided to monitor the prisoner via closed circuit television rather than making the required in-person rounds. During the shift, the prisoner injured himself in the cell and eventually died from his injuries. The district court denied the employees' motion for summary judgment, based on assertions of qualified immunity. The employees appealed. The appeals court held that summary judgment was precluded by genuine issues of material fact as to whether a prison sergeant, who was in charge of the unit where prisoner was kept, and a lieutenant, were deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm to the prisoner who died from injuries allegedly sustained in a padded cell. (Missouri Western Reception, Diagnostic and Correction Center)

  2. PERSONNEL

    U.S. District Court FMLA- Family Medical Leave Act LIGHT DUTY INJURY WORKERS COMPENSATION

    Gillman v. Okaloosa County Florida, 58 F.Supp.3d 1305 (N.D. Fla. 2014). A former county employee who had worked as a correctional officer and who had injured her hand and taken leave, brought an action against the county, alleging interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The employee had sustained an on-the-job injury when her right hand became lodged in a hydraulic door. She was transported to a hospital where she was treated for a crush injury to her right thumb. As a result of her injury, she was unable to perform many of the basic functions of her job, including tasks that required hand and finger manipulation. The county moved for summary judgment and the district court granted the motion. The court held that: (1) the county had no obligation under FMLA to place the employee in a light-duty position so that she could take FMLA leave intermittently, where the employee was not medically capable of performing her regular job duties; (2) the county's proffered reason for terminating the employee was not a pretext for FMLA retaliation; (3) the county's proffered reasons for refusing to place the employee in a light-duty position were not a pretext for FMLA retaliation; and (4) there was no causal connection between the employee's termination and her workers' compensation claim. The court noted that the county had no policy allowing for light duty, and the no designated light duty job existed for the employee's position, and that no light duty job was available when the employee requested it. (Okaloosa County Jail, Florida)

    U.S. Appeals Court EQUAL EMPLOYMENT

    Story v. Foote, 782 F.3d 968 (8th Cir. 2015). An inmate brought a [section] 1983 action against four corrections officers for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights arising from a visual body-cavity search that allegedly took place in view of a female officer and other inmates, during which the officer allegedly called the inmate a derogatory name. The district court dismissed the case and the inmate appealed. The appeals court affirmed. The court held that the visual body-cavity inspection search after the inmate returned to the correctional facility from outside the institution did not violate a clearly established right, as would preclude the qualified immunity defense, and the manner in which the search was conducted did not violate a clearly established right. According to the court, such a search was not unreasonable considering the serious security dangers inherent at a correctional institution and the institution's strong interest in preventing and deterring the smuggling of...

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