Obviously, nobody is excited about being incarcerated. For those who have to face this unfortunate experience, it can be among the most stressful times in their lives. But what can make this experience even worse is when the facility, officers, guards, or other personnel do not provide an inmate the medical attention or safety precautions they are medically prescribed or otherwise reasonably owed. This lack of attention to serious risks of harm can lead to unsafe conditions, serious injury, and even death. If you suffered a serious injury because you were denied medication, refused medical treatment, or were subjected to unreasonably unsafe conditions (of which the prison officials were aware), you may be looking for a personal injury lawyer. You may be looking for a civil rights lawyer to help you fight for your constitutional rights and protections. If this describes you, you may have a case under a cause of action known as “deliberate indifference.”
Lawsuit For Injury In Jail
Brought under 42 U.S.C. Section § 1983—the federal law that allows citizens to bring civil lawsuits for violations of their civil rights—deliberate indifference is a federal cause of action that arises from the federal courts' interpretations of the Eight Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eighth Amendment reads as follows: “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment be inflicted. (Additionally, this language is incorporated into the Texas Constitution, Art. 1 § 13.) The Supreme Court of the United States has declared that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes ‘the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' . . . proscribed by the Eighth Amendment.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976). To establish deliberate indifference, a prison official must ‘know of and disregard an excessive risk to inmate health or safety.'” Scott v. Britton, 16 S.W.3d 173, 182 (Tex. App.—Houston 2000) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 838 (1994)). Further, the prison official “must be aware of facts from which it could be inferred that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and must draw that inference.” Id. Accordingly, the official's awareness is to be determined subjectively. Id. This means that it's not sufficient to merely say that the prison official should have known—it must be shown that they actually knewthat a substantial risk of serious harm existed.
Even though a prison official may have negligently disregarded your medical needs, one obstacle to recovery may be that, in certain instances, the prison official is entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a principal of federal and state law that allows employees of the state to be immune from liability and lawsuits in some situations. “Government employees or officials are entitled to immunity from suit arising from the performance of (1) discretionary duties (2) executed in good faith (3) while acting within the scope of their authority.” Scott, 16 S.W.3d at 178 (citing City of Lancaster v. Chambers, 883 S.W.2d 650, 653 (Tex. 1994)).
“Discretionary” duties are distinguishable from “ministerial” duties. Ministerial duties refer to situations where state employees are merely following orders (or where they are supposed to be following orders). In instances like these, officials are not afforded qualified immunity; they—and the state as their employer—can be held liable. On the other hand, discretionary duties are duties where state officials have some freedom to make a choice in the execution of their duties. Put in a somewhat simplified manner, the reason the law provides officials qualified immunity in discretionary duties is because legislators decided they did not want state officials to be afraid to act when action is required simply because they are afraid they will be sued.
However, even where an official acts in his or her discretionary capacity, they still have to act in good faith to be shielded by qualified immunity. If an official does not act in good faith—for example, if they flagrantly disregard a substantial risk that no reasonable prison official should have disregarded—this may render their qualified immunity protections inapplicable. Accordingly, even if the official who allowed you to become injured in jail acted in his discretionary duties, you still may have a case if that official did not act in good faith.
The legal meaning of the word “causation” is basically the same as its meaning in plain English. However, the legal significance of causation can be the difference in winning or losing a great many types of cases—including “deliberate indifference” cases. It is not enough merely to show that a prison official put you at risk. This is because causation of actual damages is required under §1983 cases. Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 270–71 (1976). The practical meaning of this is that you must also show that the official's act or omission that put you at risk is, in fact, what caused you to become injured or harmed.
Call Us For A Free Consult
If you or a loved one were injured while in jail or if you were hurt while in prison, you or they may be intimidated by the prospect of taking on the state. In fact, some attorneys may be, too. But here at the Glenn Law Firm, we would be happy to take your call and provide you with a free consultation. We can help you understand your legal options and provide you with a free case analysis. Fill out our online form on this website, or give us a call at (817) 424-5999.