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Inmate’s suit alleging 8th Amendment violation allowed to continue

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A federal judge was incorrect in dismissing an inmate’s lawsuit alleging Eighth Amendment violations by prison staff who ignored his abdominal pain for months until the inmate was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

Danny Richards began complaining in January 2008 about pain and blood in his stool; prison physicians said he was fine. In October 2008, Richards was sent to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At that point, there was nothing doctors could do but remove his colon and construct an ileo-anal pouch.

Richards sued prison medical staff in December 2010, citing their indifference to his serious medical condition. The District Court dismissed the complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) following a motion by the defendants, ruling the lawsuit untimely.

This was wrong, the 7th Circuit ruled, because Indiana requires the judiciary to toll the time limits for incapacitated persons. Richards claimed that he did not file the suit within the applicable statute of limitations because the three surgeries he had disabled him for extended periods of times, that when he was out of the hospital he was in constant pain and unable to walk, and only filed the suit when he had the energy to do so.

These allegations may not be true, but they are plausible, and no more is required of a pleading, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote. A motion under Rule 12(b)(6) tests whether the complaint states a claim on which relief may be granted; his complaint does that so it can’t properly be dismissed under that rule, Easterbrook continued.

The suit also couldn’t have been dismissed under Rule 12(c), he pointed out. The federal judge rejected Richards’ plead of incapacity, only saying his reasons for delay are “unpersuasive.” But a judge can’t reject a complaint’s plausible allegations by calling them unpersuasive, Easterbrook said. Only a trier of fact can do that, after a trial.

This case has not reached the point where Richards’ allegations of physical incapacity are put to the test. Once he has an opportunity to produce evidence material to the tolling question, its sufficiency under Indiana law can be tested by a motion for summary judgment, the court held. Easterbrook also wrote that before proceeding further, the District Court should consider carefully “whether to assist Richards in finding a lawyer who can muster the facts and, if necessary, secure medical experts.”

 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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