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Contract Physician Not Acting Under Color Of State Law
contract physician was not acting under color of state law for purposes of
§ 1983 when treating a prisoner. Plaintiff Quincy West, a North Carolina
state prisoner, brought § 1983 action against the Governor, the prison
director and Samuel Atkins, M.D. who, acting under contract with the
state, treated a tear to West's left achilles tendon. West alleged the
treatment was inadequate and that this violated his Eighth Amendment right
to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. A U.S. district court
granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. On prisoner's appeal, the
Fourth Circuit affirmed in part and remanded in part, West v. Atkins, 799
F.2d 923 (4th Cir. 1986). On subsequent appeal, the Fourth Circuit held:
1) According to prior case law, prison physician working under contract
with the state could not be acting under color of state law for purposes
of § 1983. 2) With respect to the other two defendants, their "personal
involvement" had no relevance without assertion of facts showing that they
were authorized to overrule the physicians treatment decisions. [This case
eventually went to the U.S Supreme Court]. See: West v. Atkins, 815 F.2d
993 (4th Cir. 1987).
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