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9.25 Particular Rights—Eighth Amendment—Prisoner’s Claim re Conditions of Confinement/Medical Care

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As previously explained, the plaintiff has the burden to prove that the [act[s]] [failure to act] of the defendant [name] deprived the plaintiff of particular rights under the United States Constitution. In this case, the plaintiff alleges the defendant deprived [him] [her] of [his] [her] rights under the [Eighth Amendment] [Fourteenth Amendment] to the Constitution when [insert factual basis of the plaintiff’s claim].

Under the [Eighth Amendment] [Fourteenth Amendment], a prisoner has the right to be free from "cruel and unusual punishments." This includes the right to [specify particular constitutional interest]. In order to prove the defendant deprived the plaintiff of this right, the plaintiff must prove the following additional elements by a preponderance of the evidence:

1. [the plaintiff faced a substantial risk of serious harm] [the plaintiff faced a serious medical need];

2. the defendant was deliberately indifferent to that [risk] [medical need], that is, the defendant knew of it and disregarded it by failing to take reasonable measures to address it; and

3. the [act[s] [failure to act] of the defendant caused harm to the plaintiff.

In determining whether the defendant violated the plaintiff’s rights as alleged, you should give deference to [jail] [prison] officials in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve discipline and to maintain internal security.


Use this instruction only in conjunction with the applicable elements instructions, Instructions 9.2–9.7, and when the plaintiff is either a pretrial detainee or a convicted prisoner and claims defendants’ deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm or serious medical needs. When a convicted prisoner claims unconstitutional use of force, use Instruction 9.24 (Particular Rights—Eighth Amendment—Prisoner’s Claim of Excessive Force).When a pretrial detainee claims unconstitutional use of force, see 9.27 (Pretrial Detainee’s Claim of Excessive Force) (Comment only).

The Eighth Amendment imposes duties on prison officials to provide humane conditions of confinement; to ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care; and to "take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 526–27 (1984)). A prison official’s "deliberate indifference" to a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate violates the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 828 (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25 (1993); Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294 (1991); and Estelle v. Gamble, 829 U.S. 97 (1976)). "While Estelle establishes that deliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence, the cases are also clear that it is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result." Id. at 835.

In Farmer, the Supreme Court held an Eighth Amendment claim based on deliberate indifference must satisfy both an objective and a subjective component test. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. A prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official "knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837. Accord, Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d 898, 904 (9th Cir.2002) ("The inmates must demonstrate that they were confined under conditions posing a risk of ‘objectively, sufficiently serious’ harm and that the officials had a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind’ in denying the proper medical care. . . . Thus, there is both an objective and a subjective component to an actionable Eighth Amendment violation.").

In Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held a prison official’s deliberate indifference to serious medical needs violates the Eighth Amendment. 427 U.S. at 106. A serious medical need is present whenever the "failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury or the ‘unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.’" Clement v. Gomez, 298 F.3d at 904 (citations omitted).

Although the Eighth Amendment also provides a minimum standard for protecting pretrial detainees from conditions of confinement that amount to punishment, claims by pretrial detainees challenging such conditions arise under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause:

In light of the Supreme Court’s rulings that conditions of confinement violate pretrial detainees’ Fourteenth Amendment rights if the conditions amount to punishment, [citing Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979)], and that failure to prevent harm amounts to punishment where detention officials are deliberately indifferent, [citing Farmer v. Brennan,511 U.S. at 834], we have concluded that the "deliberate indifference" standard applies to claims that correction facility officials failed to address the medical needs of pretrial detainees.

Clouthier v. County of Contra Costa,591 F.3d 1232, 1242 (9th Cir. 2010). See also Simmons v. Sacramento County Superior Court, 318 F.3d 1156, 1160 (9th Cir. 2003). As in the case of pretrial detainees, it would appear that when the plaintiff is detained pursuant to a civil commitment, the Eighth Amendment is not the proper vehicle to challenge the conditions of commitment. Instead, the plaintiff’s rights would be analyzed under the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.Sat 535, n. 16. ("The Court of Appeals properly relied on the Due Process Clause rather than the Eighth Amendment in considering the claims of pretrial detainees.").

In Norwood v. Vance, 591 F.3d 1062(9th Cir. 2010), the Ninth Circuit held it is error not to instruct a jury to give deference to prison officials’ expert judgments when balancing the need for internal order, discipline and security against prisoners rights and privileges. "Prison officials are entitled to deference whether a prisoner challenges excessive force or conditions of confinement." Id. at 1067 (citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 322 (1985). Accordingly, the committee has added language to this instruction based on the "deference" language already included in Instruction 9.24 (Eighth Amendment—Convicted Prisoner’s Claim of Excessive Force). In Norwood, the court suggested the term, "deference" need not be defined in an instruction, but if "the district judge believed the term needed further context or definition, he could have provided it." Norwood, 591 F.3d at 1067.

The issue of whether a prison official met his or her duties to an inmate under the Eighth Amendment must be considered in the context of the personnel, financial and other resources available to the official or which he or she could reasonably obtain, at least when the official lacks authority over budgeting decisions. Peralta v. Dillard, 744 F.3d 1076, 1083-84 (9th Cir.2014) (en banc).

Approved 6/2014