University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Solesbee v. Witkowski PC-SC-0003
Docket / Court 90-2487 ( D.S.C. )
State/Territory South Carolina
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On October 17, 1990, an inmate at the Evans Correctional Institute in South Carolina filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against the supervisor of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the warden of the correctional facility, ... read more >
On October 17, 1990, an inmate at the Evans Correctional Institute in South Carolina filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina against the supervisor of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the warden of the correctional facility, along with several corrections officers. The plaintiff, who initially filed pro se and was later represented by private counsel, sought damages and declaratory relief, alleging that the actions of the defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Previously, on July 8, 1988, the plaintiff was attacked and stabbed by another inmate, while sitting in the recreation area of the dormitory where he was housed. The corrections officers on duty at the time responded to the attack by throwing chairs at the attacker and yelling for him to cease the attack. The attacker threw down his knife and walked off into a crowd of inmates, but none of the corrections officers attempted to apprehend him. As the plaintiff was being carried away on a stretcher, the attacker returned with another knife. The attacker was finally restrained, handcuffed, and taken away. The plaintiff ultimately received 12-19 stab wounds and was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.

In February 1994 a jury trial was held. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff against the warden and several of the corrections officers. The plaintiff was awarded $199,000 in damages. The plaintiff also sought declaratory relief, but withdrew those claims. The defendants had moved for judgment as a matter of law, and moved for a new trial.

The defendants appealed trial court's denial of their motions and on May 31, 1995 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (per curiam) affirmed in part and reversed in part the jury verdict. Solesbee v. Witkowski, No. 94-6916, 1995 WL 323941 (4th Cir. May 31 1995). The jury verdicts against the corrections officers were affirmed, because the harm suffered by the plaintiff was "sufficiently serious" and the prison officials were "deliberately indifferent" to the risk of harm to the inmate. The jury verdict against the warden was reversed, because there was no evidence of tacit or any other approval of the acts of the subordinates, which violated the rights of the plaintiff. The court further reasoned that the warden could not be held responsible for the training of the correctional officers, because he had only been working at the correctional facility for two months prior to the incident.

On September 13, 1995, the District Court (Magistrate Judge Robert S. Carr) amended the judgment to be consistent with the decision of the Fourth Circuit. The case has ended.

Kaitlin Corkran - 06/04/2006


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
General
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Personal injury
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Perry Prison
South Carolina Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description An inmate who was injured by a fellow inmate
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Damages
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration 1994 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
90-2487 (D.S.C.) 10/24/1996
PC-SC-0003-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Opinion 05/31/1995 (56 F.3d 62)
PC-SC-0003-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Judges Hall, Kenneth Keller (S.D. W. Va., Fourth Circuit)
PC-SC-0003-0001
Motz, Diana Jane Gribbon (Fourth Circuit)
PC-SC-0003-0001
Shedd, Dennis W. (D.S.C., Fourth Circuit)
PC-SC-0003-9000
Williams, Karen J. (Fourth Circuit)
PC-SC-0003-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Fairey, W. Gaston (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-0001
Mills, J. Christopher (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-0001 | PC-SC-0003-9000
Romosca, Rochelle L. (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-0001
Defendant's Lawyers Boyd, W. Howard Jr. (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-0001 | PC-SC-0003-9000
Smith, Michael Todd (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-9000
Wray, Ronald K. II (South Carolina)
PC-SC-0003-0001 | PC-SC-0003-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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