Louisiana Record

Monday, August 19, 2019

Detainee can pursue claims against prison worker over delayed medications

By Sam Knef | Feb 19, 2017

NEW ORLEANS — A Concordia Parish Correctional Facility detainee who had been stabbed and stomped on by fellow inmates will get to pursue legal claims against a prison worker who allegedly delayed medical care for more than 10 days after the attack.

In a per curiam ruling issued Feb. 9, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Larry Dupree Alderson, who had been a pre-trial detainee at the time of the attack on Dec. 22, 2014, can seek damages from correctional-facility employee Lt. Harvey Bryant.

The appeals court reversed in part a ruling from the Western District of Louisiana, which dismissed Alderson's claim that Bryant was deliberately indifferent to his need for prescriptions for painkillers and antibiotics. After the attack, Alderson had been diagnosed with bruised or broken ribs and multiple puncture wounds to his face, head and body.

But the appeals court also affirmed the district court's dismissal of Alderson's allegation that the facility, warden, security chief and others failed to provide adequate security. Alderson had represented himself in court.

According to background information contained in the opinion, Alderson was housed with Department of Correction inmates because of a "misclassification" by the head of security and an administrative assistant.

"Alderson’s assailants were two DOC inmates whom he did not know," the opinion stated. "They stabbed him and stomped on him in an attack that lasted at least three to five minutes."

When Alderson informed personnel about his safety and medical condition after the attack, Bryant sent him to lockdown in a cell with DOC inmates, the opinion stated

"It was not until after Alderson and his family made numerous complaints to staff that Bryant returned to the cell, took pictures of Alderson’s injuries using his own cellphone instead of the investigative camera used for documenting incidents, and then left Alderson for an hour before taking him to the hospital," the opinion stated.

When Alderson asked for his prescriptions, Bryant told him, “Man up & wait til [sic] medical staff returns from the Christmas holiday,” the opinion stated.

Alderson did not receive his medications until Jan. 2, 2015, the opinion states. He claims that his only injury during that time was an "excruciating amount of pain."

He further claims that since the attack, he has suffered from mental instability, has been on psychiatric medications and has been "in constant fear for my life from inmates and staff," the opinion stated.

The 5th Circuit found that the lower court had correctly dismissed Alderson's failure to protect claims against a security chief and others.

"When the state deprives an individual of the freedom to act on his own behalf, the 14th Amendment imposes on the state a duty to protect that individual," the opinion stated.

"'The confinement of pretrial detainees indiscriminately with convicted persons is unconstitutional unless such a practice is reasonably related to the institution's interest in maintaining jail security or physical facilities do not permit their separation.'"

The appellate judges found that in order for Alderson to state a claim against security personnel, he must allege that their misclassification was because of deliberate indifference.

"Even assuming that Alderson should not have been housed with DOC detainees as he alleges, we nevertheless hold that Alderson has failed to state a claim against Byrnes and Spinner for misclassifying him," the opinion stated.

The appeals panel, which included Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod, Leslie Southwick and James Graves Jr., remanded the case to the district court to consider Alderson's claim that Bryant was deliberately indifferent to his need for medications prescribed and his claim that Bryant impermissibly delayed his initial medical evaluation.

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Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals Illinois Department of Corrections