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From the Courts: Qualified Immunity Denied  

Author:  Ken Kozlowski.

Source: Volume 20, Number 03, March/April 2019 , pp.39-41(3)

Correctional Health Care Report

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Our regular “From the Courts” department examines two cases involving claims of qualified immunity. In the first, an inmate was savagely attacked while in custody at St. Clair Correctional Facility, taken to a nearby hospital, then removed from life support under orders of the prison’s warden. A law suit brought by the inmate’s survivors alleges that the University Hospital’s staff “declared Cummings a non-survivor shortly after his arrival,” that his papers included an instruction from Warden Davenport that “no ‘heroic measures’ would be taken to save his life,” and that this instruction came from the warden, not from the patient himself. Dr. Sherry Melton, at Davenport’s instruction, entered a do-not-resuscitate order for Cummings at about 9:17 p.m. Melton relied upon the statements of “Warden Davenport, a non-family member and not a legal guardian, to place Cummings on the DNR order.” Gaines and other family members were at the hospital at the time. In Estate of Cummings v. Davenport, 906 F.3d 934 (11th Cir. 2018), the appellate court determined that Davenport was not entitled to qualified immunity because his alleged actions were not within his discretionary authority. In the second decision covered, Barton v. Taber, 908 F.3d 1119 (8th Cir. 2018), the appeals court held that 1) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Barton was experiencing medical need so obvious that a layperson would have recognized that he needed prompt medical attention; 2) a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether a jail official knew that Barton needed medical care but nonetheless disregarded his serious medical need; and 3) there was no evidence that the supervisory official knew that the jail official was inadequately trained or supervised.

Keywords: Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order; Estate of Cummings v. Davenport; Qualified Immunity

Affiliations:  1: Ohio Supreme Court Library.

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