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From the Courts  

Author:  Ken  Kozlowski, J.D..

Source: Volume 18, Number 03, March/April 2017 , pp.35-37(3)

Correctional Health Care Report

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The principle of qualified immunity protects government employees from lawsuits arising from acts carried out in their duties as agents of the state. Qualified immunity is not a cloak of invincibility against liability arising from negligence, although some courts do occasionally construe it in ways that leave one wondering—like the 10th Circuit’s decision in a case involving a detainee in an Oklahoma jail. The suit sought damages after an inmate who was clearly very sick was left ignored as his symptoms worsened until he was finally brought to a hospital, where his condition had deteriorated to the point where amputation of one leg was necessary. The suit alleged deliberate indifference and recklessness against uniformed staff—a jail supervisor and two jail officers—not against the facility’s health care staff; indeed, the negligence charge stemmed from the officers’ failure to alert medical staff to the serious condition of the inmate. The case is instructive for jail personnel because the 10th Circuit’s ruling establishes guidelines for determining what is reasonable behavior when an inmate shows evidence of serious illness. Our legal editor also reviews a case in which jail health personnel were found not liable when a detainee died from an overdose of drugs she had consumed prior to arrival at the detention center.

Keywords: DuBois v. Brown; deliberate indifference; referral for medical attention

Affiliations:  1: Ohio Supreme Court Library.

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