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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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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