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Law and Biosciences Blog

The Daily Digest, 3/18/11

A number of cases have arisen in which a defendant prisoner raises a section 1983 claim and/or an Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim for failing to provide adequate medical care. Particularly in the context of headaches and other neurological pain, the reported cases on this are increasing. In the case today, the Plaintiff, a pro-se prisoner complainant, succeeds on challenging the dismissal of his claim under the 8th Amendment, because, as the court states, head injuries-especially after as significant a fall as the one Plaintiff alleges-are sufficiently serious to satisfy the objective requirement of an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to medical needs claim.

8th A Indifference
Barnett v. Luttrell, 2011 WL 831528 (6th Cir. 2011)
Plaintiff-Appellant “Plaintiff” appealed the dismissal of his pro se complaint. His complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleged that Defendants-Appellees (“Defendants”) Shelby County and its employees and officials denied him adequate medical care and mishandled his grievances. On June 26, 2004, Plaintiff was to receive ibuprofen from the nurse, but she incorrectly gave him the seizure medication of another patient. As he was being escorted to the medical unit, Plaintiff grew dizzy and fell down the escalator, sustaining a head injury and headaches as a result. No one administered any treatment to Barnett after this injury. The Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from “unnecessarily and wantonly inflicting pain” on prisoners by acting with “deliberate indifference” to their “serious medical needs.” The objective component mandates a sufficiently serious medical need. The subjective component regards prison officials’ state of mind. Deliberate indifference “entails something more than mere negligence, but can be satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result.” Plaintiff’s claim that he was abandoned after his fall without receiving any treatment does state a plausible claim for relief under the Eighth Amendment. As for the other component of an Eighth-Amendment claim, head injuries-especially after as significant a fall as the one Plaintiff alleges-are sufficiently serious to satisfy the objective requirement. The dismissal of this claim against her was thus in error. The court therefore reversed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s failure-to-treat claims against the Defendants and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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