Pretrial detainee properly plead a deliberate indifference claim to medical needs against corrections guard says U.S. 5th Circuit

 Alderson v. Concordia Parish Correctional Facility, No. 15-30610, (5th Cir. Feb 9, 2017)

This is a pretrial detainee constitutional suit against a state correctional facility and several employees. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all claims except one, which was a personal claim against an employee who was allegedly deliberately indifferent to Alderson’s medical needs.

Alderson, a pretrial detainee, alleged he was brutally attacked and stabbed in the Concordia Parish Correctional Facility (“CPCF”).  When Alderson raised concerns about his safety and his medical condition after the attack, Lieutenant Harvey Bryant sent him to lockdown in a cell with convicted inmates. This was a misclassification as pretrial detainees were not to be housed with convicted inmates. After considerable time had passed, Bryant took Alderson to the hospital. Upon return, when Alderson asked Bryant for the medications prescribed, Bryant refused. Bryant did not provide the prescriptions for over ten days. Alderson sued Bryant and CPCF and other department heads. The trial court dismissed all claims asserting Alderson failed to state a claim.

The court first held for a plaintiff to succeed in a § 1983 action based on “episodic acts or omissions” in violation of Fourteenth Amendment rights, a pretrial detainee must show subjective deliberate indifference by the defendants. The trial court properly dismissed the claims against the warden and all supervisors as no direct intent or knowledge was plead against them. The court also properly dismissed all claims for misclassification since the pleadings do not indicate it was done with subjective deliberate indifference. However, Alderson properly plead a sufficient claim against Bryant for failure to provide necessary medical care. A plaintiff must show deliberate indifference to serious medical needs that resulted in substantial harm. The pain suffered during a delay in treatment can constitute a substantial harm and form the basis for an award of damages.  Fifth Circuit precedent does not limit substantial harm to lifelong handicap or permanent loss. As a result, Alderson properly plead a claim against Bryant. Finally, the panel noted that even though the trial court properly dismissed the supervisors and warden, such dismissal is without prejudice based on several procedural grounds.

Judge Graves wrote a concurring opinion. Essentially, he wrote separately because he felt the Supreme Court’s decision in Kingsley v.Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466 (2015), calls into question the Fifth Circuit’s holding in Hare v. City of Corinth, 74 F.3d 633 (5th Cir. 1996). The Hare decision focused on the “subjective” deliberate indifference standard while Kingsley implicates an objective standard (at least for excessive force cases). However, he agreed the result was proper, so concurred with everything except one footnote in the majority opinion.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.  The Panel includes Circuit Judge Elrod, Circuit Judge Southwick and Circuit Judge Graves. This is a per curiam the opinion.