Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Limited Discovery Allowed in Prisoner Assault Claim to Show Supervisory Liability

At 575-76:
... [T]here is a complex intersection between qualified immunity and supervisory liability. If a plaintiff can establish the requisite indifference in the face of a policy or widespread and pervasive abuses caused by a policy, the plaintiff may hold the responsible official liable in a supervisory capacity. However, if the official can respond that a reasonable person would not have known of the effects of the policy or that the policy violated clearly established law, then that official is entitled to qualified immunity from suit.

In this inmate assault case, the plaintiff sought limited discovery to support his supervisory liability claim. The court notes that discovery is usually inappropriate when defendants have asserted qualified immunity, but that it can be allowed where relevant to the qualified immunity defense, and grants the request for discovery but narrowing its scope to include policies, procedures and records relevant to the Mental Health Unit where the assault occurred, records concerning that assault and subsequent medical treatment, policies and practices pertaining to assaults and medical care in that unit, and the number of assaults and whether the parties were prisoners, mental health staff, or security officers, and what medical care if any was provided.

The claim against one officer is dismissed, since she stated without dispute that she had attempted to keep the plaintiff and his assailant apart. Her failure to react to the assailant's initial threats and to insure that the plaintiff was safely in his cell amounted to negligence at most. See: Delph v. Trent, 86 F.Supp.2d 572 (E.D.Va. 2000).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Delph v. Trent