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Media Alerts - Danser v. Stansberry - Fourth Circuit
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October 8, 2014
  Danser v. Stansberry - Fourth Circuit
Headline: Sex Offender's § 1983 Claim Denied

Areas of Law: Civil Litigation; 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Issue Presented: Whether the district court erred in holding that certain prison officials were not entitled to qualified immunity for injuries a federal prisoner suffered at the hands of another inmate.

Brief Summary: David K. Danser, a federal prisoner serving a 370-month sentence for various sexual offenses against children, filed a Bivens complaint against a number of prison officials after being attacked by another inmate during outdoor recreational time.

Prior to the attack, Danser was moved into a protective housing unit following a verbal altercation with another inmate and prison gang member. On the day of the attack, Danser was placed in an outdoor 10' x10' cage with three different inmates for his allotted recreational time. One of these inmates, a member of the violent prison gang La Nuestra Familia, brutally attacked Danser after the official on duty broke protocol and left his post. Danser suffered a ruptured spleen, a punctured lung, and broken ribs. He filed a complaint against the officer on duty and a number of the officer's supervisors under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Danser alleged that the officials violated his constitutional rights by acting with deliberate indifference towards his safety.

The prison officials filed a motion for summary judgment asserting qualified immunity, which the district court denied. On appeal, the officials argued that they did not violate Danser's constitutional rights because they did not have the culpable state of mind necessary to establish a deliberate indifference claim. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with the officials, holding that Danser had not established anything more than the officials' mere negligence, a degree of culpability insufficient to satisfy 42 U.S.C. § 1983's high standard. Emphasizing the undisputed fact that Danser and his assailant had no separation orders between themselves, the Fourth Circuit held that the officials were entitled to qualified immunity, and remanded the case with instructions that the district court grant judgment for the defendants.

To read the full text of this opinion, please click here.

Panel: Judges Wilkinson, Keenan, and Diaz

Argument Date: 05/13/2014

Date of Issued Opinion: 09/12/2014

Docket Number: No. 13-1828

Decided: Vacated and remanded with instructions by published opinion

Case Alert Author: Emily Bolyard

Counsel: ARGUED: Michael Gordon James, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellants. Elizabeth Guild Simpson, NORTH CAROLINA PRISONER LEGAL SERVICES, INC., Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellee. ON BRIEF: Thomas G. Walker, United States Attorney, R.A. Renfer, Jr., Assistant United States Attorney, OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, Raleigh, North Carolina, for Appellants.

Author of Opinion: Judge Keenan

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Professor Renée Hutchins

    Posted By: Renee Hutchins @ 10/08/2014 11:03 AM     4th Circuit  

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