AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
Private Prisons & Entities
Journal Article: Private Prisons and Their
Employees:Civil Liability and Defenses -- Part 1, 2010 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
Monthly Law Journal Article: Private Prisons and Their Employees:Civil Liability and Defenses --Part 2, 2010 (9) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
A prisoner could not show a jury that correctional officials and private medical service providers at a prison acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when his reports of abdominal pain and colon spasms were thoroughly investigated. Medical providers were able to substantiate only a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome, and the prisoner failed to produce any evidence that his subsequent treatment for this condition deviated from accepted medical practices and standards. Physical exams and ordered X‐rays, an ultrasound, bloodwork, stool cultures, and other tests were performed, but the results were consistently normal. The decision whether further diagnostic testing, such as a colonoscopy, was necessary was “a classic example” of a matter for medical judgment. Proctor v. Sood, #16-1942, 863 F.3d 563 (7th Cir. 2017).
inmate suffered an asthma attack in his segregation unit cell, which had no
emergency call button. A number of hours later, his cellmate alerted guards by
banging on the door, and the inmate was taken to a prison medical unit operated
by a private company. Wheezing and having difficulty breathing, he was given
medications and started on oxygen by a nurse, who then called a doctor, who was
on-call for several prisons. He slept through the call, but later returned the
call, prescribing medications, and then ordering the inmate sent to a hospital
via ambulance when his difficulties continued. At the emergency room, more
medications were administered for two hours before a breathing tube was
inserted. Then the inmate died. A federal appeals court upheld a jury verdict
in favor of the warden, the private healthcare company, and the guards.
Evidence in the case didn’t support a reasonable inference that the warden
consciously disregarded a substantial risk of harm to the inmate by failing to
install emergency call buttons or to fill the vacant position of permanent
medical director in a timely manner, or that a company policy caused the death. Chatham v. Davis, #14-3318,
839 F.3d 679 (7th
Cir. 2016). .
A former pretrial detainee asserted that a private orthopedic doctor, as well as a jail nurse and doctor, were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs after he fell, broke his left humerus, dislocated the hardwear in his arm, and began to suffer extreme pain. Summary judgment was upheld for the private orthopedic doctor, since he had relayed his diagnosis of the plaintiff's arm to jail officials and had no responsibility to oversee the continuing medical decisions of the jail, nor was he informed about the subsequent alleged lack of treatment or severe pain. The jail nurse and doctor, however, were not entitled to qualified immunity, as the evidence could be interpreted as showing that they each knowingly and deliberately inflicted pain on the plaintiff by failing to provide timely medical treatment. Melton v. Abston, #15-11412, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 20681 (11th Cir.).
Eight female alien detainees sued under both 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq., claiming that a male corrections officer at a privately run prison had sexually assaulted them. Sec. 1983 claims were properly dismissed against the company running the facility and its facility administrator, as well as summary judgment granted on that claim against the officer, since the detention of the plaintiffs according to ICE specifications was carried out under federal law, not under color of state law as required for a Sec. 1983 claim. Claims against the county, which had almost no involvement in the facility's operation, were also rejected. The appeals court also upheld the rejection of FTCA against the U.S. government, as there was no evidence that ICE officials acted with deliberate indifference. Doe v. United States, #15-50331, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 13696 (6th Cir.).
Two prisoners at a federally-owned and contractor-run prison sued the U.S. government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 1346, after they contracted coccidioidomycosis (cocci). They claimed that the government failed to protect them from contracting this illness. An independent contractor exception to the FTCA did not bar liability. The Bureau of Prisons' duty to warn prisoners before transferring them to this facility arose outside of its contractual relationship with the company running the prison. As the owner of the facility, the U.S. government had a duty under California law to exercise reasonable care in the ownership and management of the property, and state law recognizes a special relationship between jailer and prisoner. Additionally, the BOP did not delegate all of its duties to the contractor once the prisoners arrived at the prison, and explicitly excluded the contractor from participating in the development of a cocci prevention policy. Edison v. United States, #14-15472, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 9250 (9th Cir.).
A prisoner filed an intended class action lawsuit against a private prison company claiming that they inadequately staffed a prison in deliberate indifference to the health and safety of prisoners. The parties settled and the company agreed to staff the prison with a specified number of security personnel. The trial court later held the company in contempt for falsifying staffing reports. An appeals court upheld the trial court's remedy of extending the settlement agreement for two years. This remedy was narrowly drawn, necessary, and the least intrusive means to rectify the company's continued Eighth Amendment violations. The appeals court upheld the contempt order and an award of attorneys' fees against the defendant. Kelly v. Wengler, #13-35972, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 9381 (9th Cir.).
A prisoner was diagnosed with a painful hernia when his incarceration began in 1995, and a second hernia in 2000. Outside doctors concluded that surgery was needed to repair them, but correctional officials and the company which provided medical care for inmates allegedly delayed until May 2007, when both hernias required emergency surgical repair. The prisoner sued over the delay and settled his claim with the private medical provider for $273,250, and signing a release of further claims against them and the doctors. A second surgery did not occur, however, until 2013, and the prisoner again sued. The trial court, based on the release, granted summary judgment to the defendants. A federal appeals court reversed, as the release did not mean that the medical provider was free to ignore the recurrent hernia, which allegedly grew increasingly painful and to act with deliberate indifference to a serious medical need by delaying the second surgery. The plaintiff claimed that this was done under a policy that classified all hernia operations as elective surgery. Heard v. Tilden, #15-1732, 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 387 (7th Cir.).
An insurer had no duty under a Commercial Umbrella Liability policy to defend or indemnify a private corporation operating a prison against claims that an inmate's death was caused by the failure to provide needed medications, as this fell under a professional liability exclusion in the policy. It did, however, have a duty to defend and indemnify the defendant on this claim under a Commercial General Liability policy, and was not required to do so under a Commercial General Liability policy because of an exclusion for providing medical services. LCS Corrections Services, Inc. v. Lexington Ins., #14-40494, 800 F.3d 664 (5th Cir. 2015).
Corizon Health, a private medical firm which services more than 345,000 inmates in 27 states, along with a California county, reached a settlement in a lawsuit based on the death of a man detained in the county jail for failing to appear in court on a warrant for drunken driving after being arrested for jaywalking. The decedent's family claimed that the firm's employees failed to properly diagnose the detainee, who was suffering from alcohol withdrawal (delirium tremens with hallucinations) and had allegedly been beaten by 10 deputies at the jail, as well as shocked with a Taser in the dart mode, first for two cycles or ten seconds, and then for at least 27 more seconds in five separate sessions. The lawsuit further claims that the detainee should have been hospitalized for the alcohol withdrawal. The defendants agreed to pay $8.3 million to the family. The private medical firm also agreed to stop using licensed vocational nurses to perform work intended for registered nurses, a practice that allegedly had saved the company 35% in labor costs. An unsupervised licensed vocational nurse, instead of an RN, did the medical screening of the decedent when he was placed in custody at the jail. The county sheriff stated that the decedent had, before his death, attacked jail officers, after acting erratically, making a mess of his cell, breaking food trays, screaming, and blocking a toilet. The county previously entered into a separate $1 million settlement with one of the deceased detainee's minor children. Harrison v. Alameda County and Corizon Health Care, Inc., #3:11-cv-02868, U.S. Dist. Ct., (N.D. Cal. February 27, 2015). Prior decisions in the case are M.H. v. County of Alameda, #11-cv-02868, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 6412 (N.D. Cal.), and M.H. v. County of Alameda, #11-cv-02868, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 55902 (N.D. Cal.).
A private psychiatrist who examined a pretrial detainee in a county jail under a contract with his employer to provide mental health services there acted under color of state law. She performed a public function in examining the detainee, who had been acting strangely, and determining that he did not meet the criteria for involuntary hospitalization in a psychiatric facility. Accordingly, the detainee could proceed with his claim that her actions denied him the mental health services he needed while detained. Carl v. Muskegon County, #13-2296, 763 F.3d 592 (6th Cir. 2014).
A state law wrongful death claim against both government officials and private medical contractors rising out of the death of a pretrial detainee from diabetic ketoacidosis was properly dismissed for failure to comply with affidavit and report requirements of a state statute. But the failure to allow the plaintiffs to amend their complaint to attempt to comply with those requirements was an abuse of discretion, particularly when the trial court did not make any factual determinations to base that refusal on. Claims against the sheriff were properly dismissed as the plaintiffs failed to present any evidence that the sheriff had any knowledge about a problem with diabetic detainees refusing to participation in their medical treatment, causing serious adverse effects. Hahn v. Walsh, #13-1766, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 15401 (7th Cir.).
A domestic violence probation violator with a lengthy history of substance abuse and mental health problems killed himself while awaiting transportation to another facility. A federal appeals court ruled that prison administrators in the case were not entitled to qualified immunity on a claim that inadequate provision of medical care by a private third party contractor cause the prisoner's suicide. Barkes v. First Corr. Med. Inc., 12-3074 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 17261 (3rd Cir.).
A private company served as an independent contractor providing healthcare service to those detained in a county jail. After a pretrial detainee there died from self-inflicted injuries, a federal civil rights lawsuit claimed that three jail employees were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. A federal appeals court found that it lacked jurisdiction to review a denial of qualified immunity to the defendants when the basis for the denial was based on the presence of disputed issues of material fact. Cady v. Cumberland County Jail, #13-2040, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 10416 (1st Cir.).
The estate of a female immigration detainee who committed suicide in a county jail has settled a federal civil rights lawsuit over the death for at least $1 million. The defendants were a private medical group and one of its employees alleged to have acted with deliberate indifference to the detainee's serious medical needs at the detention center. In an earlier decision in the case, a federal appeals court found that the woman should have been placed on suicide watch for her depression. The court found that there was evidence that could show that one employee of a private firm providing medical services at the jail had been aware of the detainee's depressed condition and suicidal thoughts, but failed to take any steps to prevent her from killing herself. The summary judgment on claims against the county, the sheriff, the jail's director, and two other employees of the medical firm was upheld. Belbachir v. McHenry Cnty., #13-1002, 726 F.3d 975 (7th Cir. 2013)."The failure to take a simple, inexpensive, obvious and indeed prescribed measure to avoid (suicide) is inexcusable." Belbachir v. County of McHenry, #06-C-1392, U.S. Dist. Court (N.D. Ill.), reported in Chicago Tribune (April 14, 2014).
Female immigration detainees, who were ordered released after presenting a prima facie case for asylum, claimed that they were each sexually assaulted by a male employee of a private prison company while he was transporting them from an immigration detention center where they had been interviewed to a bus station or airport, with no other officers present. He pled guilty to federal and state charges stemming from the assaults. While two defendant federal officials knew of a contractual requirement that such transported immigration detainees be escorted by at least one officer of the same gender, and that the aim of this was to deter such assaults, their alleged failure to take action to enforce that condition did not violate a clearly established constitutional right. Doe v. Robertson, #13-50459, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 8534 (5th Cir.).
A detainee at a county jail died as a result of a perforated duodenal ulcer, succumbing to sepsis. He had allegedly complained about stomach pain prior to his death, displayed signs of agitation, and acted in a bizarre manner indicating mental health problems. His estate claimed that medical staff members were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, and could have saved his life if they had given him prompt medical attention in the 36 hours before his death. Expert witnesses stated that he received substandard care. Summary judgment for the defendants was upheld as it could not be concluded that the medical staff deliberately failed to provide appropriate treatment after becoming aware of his serious medical needs. They had mistakenly interpreted his symptoms as indicating a different medical condition, for which they provided appropriate care. Claims against the private corporation providing medical care for inadequate training and supervision were properly rejected, and the trial court appropriately decided not to exercise jurisdiction over state law claims. Rouster v. Saginaw Cnty., #13-1673, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 6491, 2014 Fed App. 0069P (6th Cir.).
A California intermediate appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by an inmate complaining about the medical treatment he received from an optometrist under contract to provide services to prisoners. The prisoner failed to properly exhaust available administrative remedies and no acceptable excuse for that was provided. The court rejected the argument that the requirement to exhaust administrative remedies did not apply when the defendant was an independent contractor rather than a government employee. Parthemore v. Col, #C072611, 2013 Cal. App. Lexis 984.
An immigration detainee housed in a county jail under a contract with the federal government used her socks to strangle herself to death in her cell after eight days of incarceration. A federal appeals court found that there was evidence that could show that one employee of a private firm providing medical services at the jail had been aware of the detainee's depressed condition and suicidal thoughts, but failed to take any steps to prevent her from killing herself. The summary judgment on claims against the county, the sheriff, the jail's director, and two other employees of the medical firm was upheld. Belbachir v. McHenry Cnty., #13-1002, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 16665 (7th Cir.).
An Alaska prisoner was sent to a private prison in Arizona run by the defendant corporation. He sued the company, claiming that it violated various terms of its contract with the state of Alaska as well as various Alaska state correctional policies. He sought damages as a third party beneficiary to the contract between the state of Alaska and the company, and also argued that he should be able to collect damages against the company because he was a member of a class of prisoners who had previously won a settlement against the state of Alaska concerning various inmate grievances. He contended that some of the conditions he faced at the defendant's out of state private prison violated the terms of that settlement. The Alaska Supreme Court ruled that the prior class action settlement agreement had not intended that prisoners be able to receive money damages awards to enforce its provisions. The defendant was entitled to summary judgment. Perotti v. Corrections Corporation of America, #S-13936, 2012 Alas. Lexis 167.
A prisoner appealed from the dismissal of his claims against a doctor on a federal civil rights claim. While the prisoner did not received required notices spelling out what he had to do to oppose her motion for summary judgment, this was harmless since it was clear that there were no facts that would allow the inmate to prevail. The doctor, at the time she treated the prisoner, was working as an independent contractor and not as an employee of the prison or the hospital. She was not a state actor and could not be liable for a federal civil rights claim. Emergency medical care is not a traditionally and exclusively government function. Stratton v. Buck, #10-35656, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 19660 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).
A pre-trial detainee in a county facility had a history of depression but had exhibited no signs of suicidal tendencies. A social worker decided not to forward his request to see a prison psychiatrist to ask for anti-depressant medication. After the detainee hung himself and died, a lawsuit was filed for deliberate indifference against the psychiatrist, who was an employee of a private nonprofit organization which furnishes medical services to the facility. The psychiatrist could not seek qualified immunity from federal civil rights liability as a private doctor working part-time for a government entity, as there was no history of such immunity for such doctors at the time the federal civil rights statute was enacted. McCullum v. Tepe, #11-3424, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 18171, 2012 Fed. App. 0287P (6th Cir.).
A firefighter sued a city and a private attorney hired by the city to conduct an internal investigation of his conduct for violation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. The firefighter was suspected of malingering while supposedly off work on account of illness. The firefighter argued that the attorney's order to him to produce building materials stored at his home violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. He had been seen buying the building supplies and the issue was whether he had been installing the building materials rather than being ill. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the private attorney was entitled to qualified immunity along with other individual defendants despite not being a city employee. A private individual temporarily retained by a city to carry out its work is able to seek qualified immunity from civil rights liability. In this case, the city needed the attorney's experience and expertise in employment law. Filarsky v. Delia, #10–1018, 132 S. Ct. 1657; 2012 U.S. Lexis 3105.
An inmate at a privately run federal prison filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees there for alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs in connection with treatment of injuries suffered in a fall. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, in these circumstances, California state law provides adequate alternative damage remedies for negligence or medical malpractice so that there is no need to imply a federal constitutional civil rights cause of action against the private employees. These state law remedies provide both adequate deterrence of similar future conduct and compensation for any damages suffered. Minneci v. Pollard, #10-1104, 2012 U.S. Lexis 573
A contractor that provided health care services at a county jail was entitled to summary judgment in a detainee's lawsuit for alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Nine different medical practitioners conducted evaluations of the detainee a total of 16 times over a nine day period before deciding to send him to have a scan done that ultimately showed that he required neurological surgery. This only constituted a single incident, however, and was insufficient to show a policy or custom of deliberate indifference. Craig v. Floyd County, #10-13225, 643 F.3d 1306 (11th Cir. 2011).
Upholding a jury's rejection of a prisoner's lawsuit banning his receipt of certain gift publications, a federal appeals court ruled that there was evidence from which the jury could find that that the private prison's policy was necessary to promote security and administrative interests. The jury was properly instructed that prisoners have a First Amendment right to receive mail and gift publications, but that a policy barring receipt of some such publications could be legal if reasonably related to legitimate penological or correctional goals. Blaisdell v. Corr. Corp. of Am., #09-17795, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 7600 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).
A prisoner confined in a privately operated facility claimed that the company in charge or its authorized decision maker failed to enforce a policy of protecting inmates from harm, resulting in him being stabbed by a prisoner with known violent propensities. The prisoner failed to show that the defendant knew or should have known that housing him with the prisoner who attacked him created a dangerous risk of harm given his prior conduct and mental illness. Additionally, the prisoner could not assert his right to a jury trial simply because of his dissatisfaction with the findings of the magistrate judge, having previously waived a jury trial. Winding v. The Geo Group, Inc., #09-60693, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 26259 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
A private company that contracted with a county to provide medical services at a jail was found liable for failing to prevent the suicide of a detainee. The defendant was aware of the risk that he might commit suicide when he answered "yes" to ten questions on a suicide screening form at intake. The jury awarded $750,000 in damages, and the court also awarded the plaintiffs $234,320 in attorneys' fees, and $11,302.20 in costs. The court also reduced the damage award against the defendant company to $257,000 to reflect the amount paid by other defendant parties who settled before trial. The jury had found the private company 35% at fault for the death, while assessing 65% of the blame against the county and its employees. A federal appeals court upheld this result. Sinkov v. Americor, Inc., #10-0309, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 7667 (Unpub. 2nd Cir.).
A pretrial detainee committed suicide on the third day of his confinement, and his estate sued the county and various jail and health care personnel and entities for failure to prevent the suicide. The county, jail warden, and correctional officers moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the motion as to all defendants, erroneously also including the independent private contractor providing medical services at the jail and its defendant employees, despite the fact that they had not joined in the summary judgment motion. When informed of this, the trial judge nevertheless upheld the summary judgment for these defendants, ruling that as private parties they did not act under color of state law as required for federal civil rights claims, and declining to exercise jurisdiction over state law claims against them. A federal appeals court held that the trial judge should have given the plaintiff notice and an opportunity to be heard before ruling that the private defendants did not act under color of state law. The plaintiff could have argued that the private defendants acted under color of state law, and acted with deliberate indifference to a known risk of suicide. Further proceedings were therefore required. It is well settled, the appeals court noted, that private persons and entities sometimes act under color of state law. Donnell v. Correctional Health Services, Inc., #10-1211, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 25815 (Unpub. 3rd Cir.).
A federal statute reduces the disability benefits of veterans who are convicted of a felony and "incarcerated in a Federal, State, or local penal institution." One such disabled veteran, convicted of a felony and incarcerated in a privately operated prison, following transfer from a state-operated prison, argued that the statute did not apply to those serving their sentence in private prisons, and that his monthly benefits were therefore improperly reduced from $808 to $85. A federal appeals court rejected this argument. It noted that a private prison's authority to confine the veteran derives from his state felony conviction and the authority to imprison citizens ultimately rests with the government only. Interpreting the statute to apply to private prisons under state contract would promote the statute's stated legislative purpose of avoiding the duplication of governmental expenditures for veterans who are already supported by the government and suffer no lost earnings as a result of their disability. The court further reasoned that creating a distinction between veterans in state-operated and state-contracted privately operated prisons would create "an unreasonable or irrational result because it would both thwart the intentions of Congress and allow felons who chance to be incarcerated in private facilities at government expense [to] continue to be entitled to the full amount of their VA benefits while felons incarcerated in State-owned-and-operated facilities would not." Wanless v. Shinseki, #2010-7007, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 18899 (Fed. Cir.).
A prisoner sued a private care center, its director, and its medical personnel for deliberate indifference and negligence. The federal district court adopted a magistrate's recommendation that the complaint be dismissed with prejudice, as prior Fourth Circuit precedent declined to extend Bivens civil rights causes of action to private persons and entities whose only relationship to the federal government was by contract, particularly when adequate state law remedies exist for the alleged harm suffered. Despite the prisoner's argument that his claim was more a matter of violation of civil rights than of state law medical malpractice, a medical malpractice claim was an adequate state law remedy. Eddington v. Wyatt; #8:09-cv-02669, 2010 U.S. Dist. Lexis 1950 (D.S.C.).
A Washington state prisoner filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against a Jewish religious congregation that contracted with the prison to provide services to prisoners, and its president. He claimed that the defendants improperly denied or substantially burdened his access to Jewish religious materials and services. Reversing the dismissal of the lawsuit, a federal appeals court, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, concluded that these private parties acted under color of state law. The defendants and the prison allegedly implemented policies intended to prevent non-Jewish prisoners from participating in the Jewish religious services and programs provided. Prisoners were presumed Jewish if they were either born to a Jewish mother or had undergone a formal conversion. The plaintiff indicated a Jewish religious preference and requested a kosher diet, a Torah, a Jewish calendar, and consultation with a rabbi. He was denied these requests after he failed to complete a questionnaire as to whether his mother was Jewish or whether he had formally converted to Judaism. Florer v. Congregation Pidyon Shevuyim, #07-35866, 603 F.3d 1118 (9th Cir. 2010).
A federal prisoner was injured in an accident, slipping on a cart left in a doorway. He was referred to an orthopedic clinic outside the prison. Prior to being transported there, a prison employee allegedly required him to put on a jumpsuit, despite his protests that putting his arms through the sleeves would cause him severe pain. Two employees also allegedly forced him to wear a "black box" mechanical restraint device despite his complaints about the resulting pain. He also claimed that a doctor's direction that his left elbow be put into a posterior splint for two weeks was not followed at the prison because of limitations in staffing and facilities. He was allegedly unable to feed or bathe himself for several weeks, and prison employees failed to make alternative arrangements for him. He filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the private company that ran the prison under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons, as well as a number of their employees, claiming violation of his constitutional rights. Overturning dismissal of the lawsuit, a federal appeals court ruled that the company's employees acted under color of federal law for purposes of a civil rights lawsuit. Pollard v. GEO Group, Inc., #07-16112, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 11496 (9th Cir.).
A Florida prisoner in a prison operated by a private prison management company under contract sued three employees of the company in their official capacities, seeking injunctive relief and damages for disability discrimination under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132, which prohibits a "public entity" from discriminating against qualified persons because of their disabilities. Upholding summary judgment for the defendants, a federal appeals court held that the private corporation was not a public entity merely on the basis that it entered into a contract with a public entity to provide services. An "instrumentality of the state" is a government unit or a unit created by a government unit. Edison v. Douberly, #08-15819, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 8961 (11th Cir.).
Evidence in a lawsuit did not show that a private company that managed a county jail or its employees had knowledge making a detainee's suicide foreseeable. No behavior was witnessed indicating mental issues or suicidal tendencies on the part of the detainee. During the morning of the suicide, employees violated the company's own policies of making rounds by performing checks only hourly and omitting the decedent's location during one such check, but this did not suffice to impose liability in the absence of foreseeability of the suicide attempt. Timson v. Juvenile and Jail Facility Management Services, Inc., #09-12351, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 26120 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).
A Wisconsin prisoner who began spitting up blood and experiencing abdominal pain claimed that he suffered severe pain from an improperly inserted IV line and the failure of ambulance personnel and hospital personnel to adequately respond to his complaints. A federal appeals court noted that federal civil rights liability may be imposed on private parties when they contract with government to provide medical services to inmates. The court ordered that discovery be conducted to discover the names of the personnel the inmate claimed acted with deliberate indifference towards his serious medical needs. Rodriguez v. Plymouth Ambulance Service, #06-4260, 577 F.3d 816 (7th Cir. 2009).
Oklahoma two-year statute of limitations applied to and barred prisoner's claims that he was injured by guards in a privately run prison during a disturbance that other inmates initiated. While the contract between the corporation and that state indicated that Wisconsin law, the site of the prison, governed the contract, the prisoner was not a party to or a third-party beneficiary of the contract, and his lawsuit was not seeking to enforce the contract, but instead claimed a violation of civil rights, so the provisions of the contract were not relevant to whether or not the lawsuit was timely. Malone v. Corrections Corporation of America, No. 07-3640, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 1153 (7th Cir.).
Colorado prisoner's lawsuit claiming that his transfer to a privately run prison in Oklahoma violating his federal constitutional rights was properly dismissed, as no such right was implicated by the transfer. Lyons v. Zavaras, No. 08-1133, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 925 (10th Cir.).
A prisoner in a private prison in Texas had a First Amendment right to write to the Wyoming Department of Corrections Director asking to be returned to Wyoming and complaining about the conditions of his confinement, and stated a valid claim against seven prison employees contending that they retaliated against him for doing so. He also asserted a valid claim for unconstitutional deprivation of his funds by alleging that he was fined $50 because he testified in another prisoner's disciplinary hearing. Pfeh v. Freudenthal, No. 07-10312, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12897 (Unpub. 5th Cir.).
The Governor of California did not exceed his authority in declaring a state of emergency in relation to prison overcrowding, and then entering into contracts to house California inmates in out-of-state private prisons. Under state law, he could proclaim such states of emergency when there is "extreme peril" in an area exclusively under the control of the state government. Until additional state prisons were constructed, there was an urgent need for services to provide safety from the risks created by overcrowding. The court therefore rejected a challenge to the Governor's actions filed by a prison guards union and others. California Correctional Peace Officers' Association v. Schwarzenegger, No. C055327, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 832 (3rd Dist.).
Prisoner's claims against the Indiana Department of Corrections and its facilities for alleged inadequate medical care for failing to treat a painful injury were barred by the state's Eleventh Amendment immunity. The plaintiff failed to show that the Department's Commissioner had any personal involvement in health care decisions concerning him, requiring the dismissal of claims against the Commissioner. The court also dismissed claims against a private medical services provider whose employees provided medical care at the facility where the plaintiff was incarcerated, since he did not claim that its officials made any decisions concerning his alleged inadequate care or that the inadequate care resulted from its policies. The prisoner could not pursue his claims against the provider's doctors until he had identified them. The court also rejected the plaintiff's equal protection claim since he did not allege that he suffered treatment different from that provided to any other similarly situated individuals. Voss v. Ind. Depart. of Corrections, No. 3:07-CV-449, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 8771 (N.D. IN.).
Prisoner's claim that correctional employees improperly delayed transferring him for surgery after his gallstones condition was diagnosed was sufficient for him to pursue a lawsuit against the District of Columbia and its employees. Claims against a private prison contractor and its employees, however, were dismissed on the basis of the dismissal of a prior lawsuit against them. Brown v. D.C., No. 05-5320, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 2254 (D.C. Cir.).
Private company that operated a prison under a contract with the State of Kentucky was not liable for an escaped prisoner's robbery, assault, and rape of a woman several hours after his escape. Under Kentucky state law, applied by the federal court on the plaintiff's negligence claim, there is no negligence liability when the harm to a third person, the victim, is caused by another person's intentionally criminal acts. Intentionally violent acts against unknown third persons, the court stated, are generally not regarded as foreseeable under Kentucky state law. Norris v. Corrections Corporation of America, No. 3:07CV-273, 2007 U.S. Dist. Lexis 83965 (W.D. Ky.).
Federal appeals court upholds award of $200,000 in compensatory and $797,160 in punitive damages to parent whose son was murdered in a residential program for juvenile delinquents. By the end of 1999, four youths had been murdered while in the same juvenile facility, provided by a private company for the District of Columbia. The plaintiff's son became the fifth in 2000. The plaintiff had argued that the company that operated the facility acted in a reckless manner in failing to protect the decedent against a foreseeable risk of harm, and violated his constitutional rights, and the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff on both claims. Muldrow v. Re-Direct, Inc., No. 05-7169, 2007 U.S. App. Lexus 15814 (D.C. Cir.).
A prisoner suffering from a hernia stated a viable federal civil rights claim against a private company providing medical services at the prison by alleging that it was the company's policy to classify any and all umbilical hernias as elective surgery, which it routinely denied to prisoners, in deliberate indifference to serious medical needs. Williams v. Prison Health Services, Inc., No. 05-2400, 167 Fed. Appx. 555 (7th Cir. 2006). [N/R]
Update: Full federal appeals court evenly divided on whether a prisoner in a privately-run prison operated under a contract with the U.S. Marshals Service could pursue a civil rights claim for money damages against individual employees of the private corporation operating the facility. Peoples v. CCA Detention Ctrs., No. 04-3071 & 04-3124, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 12113 (10th Cir.). [2006 JB Jul]
Requirement, under Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e(a), that a prisoner exhaust available administrative remedies prior to filing a federal civil rights lawsuit applies to prisoners held in a privately-run state prison. Federal appeals court upholds dismissal, without prejudice, of a prisoner's claim that he had been denied needed medical treatment, based on his failure to complete all of a privately-run prison's four-step grievance procedure. Bias v. Cornell Corrections, Inc., No. 04-6353, 159 Fed. Appx. 868 (10th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Individual employees of privately run prison were not subject to a federal civil rights Bivens lawsuit for allegedly providing inadequate medical care to a diabetic federal prisoner. Holly v. Scott, No. 05-6287, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 685 (4th Cir.).[2006 JB Mar]
Hospital employee taken hostage by inmate was properly awarded $500,000 in damages against private security company that took the prisoner to the hospital for medical treatment under contract with the state of Tennessee. Company employees were negligent in failing to both stay in hospital room with inmate and in allowing prisoner access to a weapon which he used to escape and kidnap employee and drive away with her in her car. Willis v. Settle, 162 S.W.3d 169 (Tenn. App. 2004), review denied, Tennessee Supreme Court (2005). [N/R]
Federal prisoner could not pursue federal civil rights claims for damages against employees of a privately operated prison when Kansas state law provided alternative remedies for each of his viable claims. Peoples v. CCA Detention Ctr., No. 04-3071, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 19283 (10th Cir.). [2005 JB Oct]
Employee's lawsuit against private corporation (Correctional Services Corporation) operating correctional facility could not be pursued as a federal civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, since the company's employment decisions are not made under color of state law, which is a necessary part of such a claim. Cornish v. Corr. Serv. Corp., No. 04-10550, 402 F.3d 545 (5th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
Federal prisoner could not pursue a civil rights claim for inadequate medical care under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971) against a private hospital or a nurse there because the defendants were not federal entities. Claims under Bivens require that the defendant act under color of federal authority. Holz v. Terre Haute Regional Hospital, No. 03-4279, 123 Fed. Appx. 712 (7th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
A prisoner failed to show any custom or practice for which a private contract health care provider could be held liable under federal civil rights law for alleged deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. It was insufficient to merely allege various individual actions by the provider's employees, such as failing to provide him with a back brace, when there was no showing that any policy or custom of the provider led to these alleged deprivations. Dashley v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., No. 2:04CV00014, 345 F. Supp. 2d 1018 (E.D. Mo. 2004). [N/R]
Detainee adequately alleged facts from which a reasonable jury could decide that a doctor employed by a private company providing medical services at a county jail was deliberately indifferent to his need for medical treatment for his allegedly severed tendons on his right hand. Johnson v. Karnes, No. 03-4200, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 3278 (6th Cir. 2005). [2005 JB Apr]
Complexities of the legal issues in a lawsuit brought by an immigration detainee claiming that he was attacked by correctional officers while in a facility operated by a private corporation required the vacating of a jury award for the defendants when the trial court failed to appoint a lawyer to represent the detainee. Agyeman v. Corrections Corporation of America, No. 03-16068, 390 F.3d 1101 (9th Cir. 2004). [2005 JB Mar]
Prisoners at a privately operated prison are not entitled to minimum wages for their prison work assignments. Bennett v. Frank, No. 04-1959, 2005 U.S. App. Lexis 960 (7th Cir.). [2005 JB Mar]
Claim against a private corporation for alleged inadequate medical care resulting in female prisoner's death from acute renal failure did not have to satisfy a "heightened pleading standard" providing detailed facts, since corporation was the "functional equivalent" of a municipality and could not assert a qualified immunity defense. Swann v. Southern Health Partners, Inc., No. 03-14387, 388 F.3d 834 (11th Cir. 2004). [2005 JB Jan]
A private corporation that ran a prison under a contract with a state entity was not a federal agent simply because a pretrial detainee was incarcerated there while awaiting trial on federal charges. Accordingly, the prisoner could not pursue federal civil rights claims against the corporation and its employees under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), which created a remedy for the violation of constitutional rights by federal agents. The prisoner could, however, pursue federal civil rights claims against the corporation and its employees under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, which creates a remedy for violations of constitutional rights under color of state law, as the corporation and its employees derived their authority over the prisoner from their contract with the state. Federal trial court dismisses his claim that male prisoner's right to privacy while he showered and performed bodily functions was violated by female employees at the facility for procedural reasons. Lacedra v. Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility, C.A. No. 99-458L, 334 F. Supp. 2d 114 (D.R.I. 2004). [N/R]
Federal appeals court rules that Prison Litigation Reform Act's requirement that prisoners exhaust available administrative remedies before pursuing lawsuits applies to prisoners in private facilities. Boyd v. Corrections Corp. of America, No. 03-5227, 380 F.3d 989 (6th Cir. 2004). [2004 JB Nov]
Nebraska prisoner who was not housed in a prison governed by a contract signed under the state's Private Prison Contracting Act, Neb. Rev. St. Sec. 47-801 to 47-807, did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of that statute or to represent the interests of the public. As he owned no property and paid only a limited sales tax on purchases from the prison commissary, he did not have standing as a "taxpayer" to challenge the expenditure of public funds under the statute. Jacob v. State of Nebraska, No. A-02-1096, 685 N.W.2d 88 (Neb. App. 2004). [N/R]
Federal appeals court rejects challenges to consent decree requiring improvements to Puerto Rican prison conditions, including claim that the court's order violated the requirements of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Court declines to order termination of consent decree requiring privatization of inmate health care, pointing to continuing serious problems. Feliciano v. Rullan, No. 04-1300, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 16258 (1st Cir.). [2004 JB Sep]
Female former inmates of federal community confinement center operated by a private company failed to show that company was negligent in failing to uphold a one-year security experience requirement when transferring an employee to a "resident advocate" position, since they failed to demonstrate that there was any connection between the employee's lack of security experience and his alleged sexual abuse of inmates. Company could not be held vicariously liable for the alleged abuse simply on the basis of the employer-employee relationship. There was, however, a triable issue of whether the company was negligent in retaining the employee after it received a report of his alleged sexual harassment of one female prisoner. Adorno v. Correctional Services Corp., 312 F. Supp. 2d 505 (S.D.N.Y. 2004 ). [N/R]
Far from showing that court ordered privatization of inmate medical care in Puerto Rico should be ended, correctional official's own evidence showed that consent decree relief was still necessary to remedy ongoing problems. Feliciano v. Serra, 300 F.Supp.2d 321 (D. Puerto Rico 2004). [2004 JB Jun]
Under New Jersey state law, state and county correctional facility could be held vicariously liable for alleged medical malpractice by private contractors that provided medical care to now deceased inmate, since their duty to provide adequate health care to the prisoner could not be delegated. Prisoner allegedly died because he was either denied or given inadequate dosages of prednisone medication for "Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria with hemolytic episode" (PNH), a condition for which the only potential cure is a bone marrow transplant. Scott-Neal v. N.J. State Dept. of Corrections, 841 A.2d 957 (N.J. Super. A.D. 2004). [N/R]
Private psychiatric hospital and not-for-profit company which owned it were not immune under Tennessee law for potential liability for county jail inmate's suicide on the basis of their employee's alleged action in telling county jail that suicide protocol precautions were not necessary for this prisoner. Employee also qualified as a "state employee" because of his service in screening prisoners to determine if hospitalization was appropriate, and as a state employee, he was entitled to statutory immunity, but this did not alter the result as to the hospital or its owner. Shelburne v. Frontier Health, 126 S.W.3d 838 (Tenn. 2003). [N/R]
Prisoner's claim that his constitutional rights to adequate conditions and medical care were being violated in a private prison in Ohio where he was incarcerated under a contract with the District of Columbia, and that D.C. officials knew or should have known of this, but failed to take corrective action was sufficient to state a federal civil rights claim against the District. Warren v. District of Columbia, No. 02-7120, 353 F.3d 36 (D.C. Cir. 2004). [2004 JB Mar]
Privately owned and run correctional facility and its corrections officer acted "under color of state law" for purposes of a federal civil rights claim. Federal appeals court reinstates lawsuit by prisoner claiming that officer subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment by slamming a door on his fingers, severing two fingertips. Rosborough v. Management & Training Corporation, #03-40493, 2003 U.S. App. Lexis 22864, 350 F.3d 459 (5th Cir.). [2004 JB Jan]
Guards and operator of private facility with custody over only federal prisoners could not be sued under federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983, since they did not act under "color of state law," but the guards at the facility were acting under color of federal law and therefore could still be sued directly for alleged violations of prisoner's constitutional rights in leaving him unprotected against assault by another prisoner. Such a claim could not, however, be asserted against the corporation which operated the prison. Sarro v. Cornell Corrections, Inc., 248 F. Supp. 2d 52 (D.R.I. 2003). [2003 JB Oct]
A state prisoner's incarceration in a private prison does not raise any federal constitutional claim. Florez v. Johnson, #02-2131, 63 Fed. Appx. 432 (10th Cir. 2003).[N/R]
Composition of disciplinary board which found prisoner guilty of participating in a riot did not violate his right to due process even if it violated a prison policy that it should be composed of employees of the private company managing the prison rather than employees of the state department of corrections. Constitutional due process merely requires that the decision maker be impartial. Sampson v. Davis, #02-3037, 58 Fed. Appx. 217 (7th Cir. 2003). [2003 JB Jul]
Private corporation operating correctional facility was not liable for violating a prisoner's liberty interest by placing him in medium security status. Prisoner was not entitled to any particular status and the company's officials had explained the basis for the classification. Additionally, his placement in disciplinary segregation for committing a battery while in prison did not violate his rights when there was nothing "atypical" about the conditions in segregation. The city in which the prison was located could not be held liable for any alleged violation of the prisoner's rights when there was nothing to show that the city had any role in operating the prison. Byrd v. Cornell Corrections, Inc., No. 02-6316, 60 Fed. Appx. 191 (10th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
Prisoner could not pursue a federal civil rights lawsuit over a state's practice of transferring inmates to out-of-state private prisons, since he had no constitutional right to be placed in a particular facility. Prisoner's claim that officials denied timely parole hearings as part of a plan to create overcrowding in state prisons and therefore create a need for transfers to private prisons so that they could increase the value of the stock in private prison corporations allegedly held in their retirement portfolios could not be pursued when prisoner could not show that he was being held beyond his mandatory release date. Madyun v. Litscher, No. 02-1788, 57 Fed. Appx. 259 (7th Cir. 2002). [N/R]
County could be held liable under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 for alleged customs and policies of private corporation hired to manage and operate a county detention facility. Prisoner could pursue municipal liability claim based on claim that corporation failed to properly train its employees to prevent their use of brutality against prisoners. Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) exhaustion of remedies requirement, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1997e, applies to cases in which a private company is operating a prison or jail. Herrera v. County of Santa Fe, 213 F. Supp. 2d 1288 (D.N.M. 2002). [N/R]
Private company and individual employee defendants who operated a correctional facility under a contract with the state were "state actors" for purposes of a federal civil rights claim under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. Palm v. Marr, 174 F. Supp. 2d 484 (N.D. Tex. 2001). [N/R]
U.S. Supreme Court, by 5-4 vote, rules that federal civil rights claims may not be brought against private companies acting under color of federal law, such as a private company operating a halfway house under a contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, #00-860, 2001 U.S. LEXIS 10812. [2002 JB Jan]
298:151 Private corporation providing medical care to detainees in county correctional facility was not to be treated as a "municipality" in detainee's federal civil rights lawsuit; plaintiff could seek punitive damages and need not show a policy or custom of the corporation caused the alleged deprivation to establish liability. Segler v. Clark County, 142 F. Supp. 2d 1264 (D. Nev. 2001).
295:109 Transfer of Alaska prisoner to an out-of- state private prison did not violate his rights or constitute improper enhanced punishment; such transfers were authorized under state law and contract with private prison required it to adopt state corrections policies and procedures and comply with federal and state laws. Hertz v. State of Alaska, #A-7585, No. 1732, 22 P.3d 895 (Alas. App. 2001).
291:43 U.S. Supreme Court to review issue of whether prisoners may pursue federal civil rights claims against private companies that run prisons under contract with federal agencies; federal appeals courts are currently split on the issue. Malesko v. Correctional Services Corp., #99-7995, 229 F.3d 374 (2nd Cir. 2000), cert. granted, Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, #00-860, 121 S. Ct. 1224 (2001).
290:25 Federal trial judge rules that employees of a private company hired to run a detention facility operated by a private company created by a city could not be sued for alleged violations of federal pre-trial detainee's right to religious freedom in seeking diet free from meat and meat products. Lawson v. Liburdi, 114 F. Supp. 2d 31 (D.R.I. 2000).
278:29 Wisconsin statute that authorized the transfer of state prisoners to private prisons in other states did not violate prisoners' rights under the Thirteenth Amendment; federal appeals court states that prisoners' claims were "thoroughly frivolous." Pischke v. Litscher, #98-4013, 178 F.3d 497 (7th Cir. 1999).
267:45 Correctional officer employed by private corporation running state prison acted under "color of state law" when he allegedly raped female prisoner in her cell, but was not a "state employee" entitled to immunity from state law assault and battery claim; no showing that prison officials had knowledge of "substantial risk" of sexual assault on prisoner. Gibon v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F.Supp.2d 1245 (D.N.M. 1998); Gibon v. Corrections Corp. of America, 14 F.Supp.2d 1252 (D.N.M. 1998).
[N/R] Employee of a private nonprofit corporation which operated a correctional work program for the Florida state department of corrections was entitled to qualified immunity from prisoner's claim that he was improperly denied an office position in the program on the basis of race. Anthony v. Burkhart, 28 F.Supp.2d 1239 (M.D. Fla).
250:148 U.S. Supreme Court rules that qualified immunity defense in federal civil rights lawsuits is not available to correctional officers working for privately run state prisons. Richardson v. McKnight, 117 S.Ct. 2100, 1997 U.S. Lexis 3866 (June 23, 1997).
255:43 Private corporation running county jail under contract with county could not raise qualified immunity defense in federal civil rights lawsuit. Blumel v. Mylander, 954 F.Supp. 1547 (M.D. Fla. 1997).
243:35 U.S. Supreme Court to review issue of whether correctional officers working for privately run state prison may assert qualified immunity defense in federal civil rights lawsuit; federal appeals court held that this defense was not available to such defendants in prisoner's lawsuit. McKnight v. Rees, 88 F.3d 417 (6th Cir.), cert. granted, sub nom., Richardson v. McKnight, 117 S.Ct. 504, 1996 U.S. Lexis 7155 (U.S. Nov. 27, 1996).
251:168 Merely housing prisoner with history of violence in the same unit as prisoner he later assaulted was insufficient basis to impose liability on warden when facility was not overcrowded and staffing levels were adequate; private corporation engaged in running county correctional facility not liable for assault on prisoner in absence of showing that an official policy or custom was responsible for correctional officer's alleged failure to act after assailant made threats to assault plaintiff prisoner. Street v. Corrections Corporation of America, 102 F.3d 810 (6th Cir. 1996).
224:123 Private corporation operating treatment center for female inmates under contract with U.S. government could raise qualified immunity defense in federal civil rights lawsuit by inmates asserting that employee made sexual advances towards them. Smith v. United States, 850 F.Supp. 984 (M.D. Fla. 1994).
224:124 Officials at privately run detention facility did not act "under color of state law," and pre-trial detainee's right of access to courts was not violated by refusal to allow him to use law library when he was represented by counsel in his criminal trial. Lloyd v. Corrections Corporation of America, 855 F.Supp. 221 (W.D. Tenn. 1994).