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Case Name Redmond v. Bigelow PC-UT-0004
Docket / Court 2:13-cv-00393-DAK ( D. Utah )
State/Territory Utah
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On June 3, 2013, Utah State Prison prisoners who suffered from physical and mental health conditions filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The prisoners sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the prison's warden in his official capacity, a captain in his ... read more >
On June 3, 2013, Utah State Prison prisoners who suffered from physical and mental health conditions filed this class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. The prisoners sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the prison's warden in his official capacity, a captain in his personal capacity, and a guard in his personal capacity. The prisoners, represented by the ACLU of Utah and private counsel, asked the court for declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for damages, claiming violations of the both the Utah Constitution's and the Eighth Amendment's cruel and unusual punishment clauses.

The lawsuit arose out of an incident on August 3, 2011, when prison guards used ochlorobenzylidenemalononitrile gas (CS gas) against an inmate who refused to leave one of the recreation yards and return to his cell. The guards released the CS gas grenade near two air vents which distributed the gas to several cell blocks within the Olympus facility. Plaintiffs were inmates who were in their cells in the Olympus facility at the time the CS gas was released. The Olympus facility is a self-contained housing unit on the grounds of the Utah State Prison that houses medically fragile inmates, such as inmates requiring dialysis, and inmates with serious mental health issues.

The prisoners sought class certification for two classes: (1) the Injunctive Class, defined as “all prisoners currently incarcerated in the Olympus wing of the Utah State Prison,” and (2) the Damages Class, defined as “all prisoners and former prisoners who were in their cells in the Olympus Wing of the Utah State Prison on August 3, 2011, and were thereby exposed to noxious CS gas.”On June 18, 2014, the court (Judge Dale A. Kimball) granted certification for both classes. 2014 WL 2765469 (D. Utah June 18, 2014).

On January 29, 2015, the prisoners filed an amended complaint. This complaint contained: an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against each Defendant; an Eighth Amendment medical neglect claim against the officer who was both the captain assigned to the Olympus Facility and the head supervisor of the correctional staff on duty at the time of the incident; and a claim under Article I, Section 9 of the Utah Constitution for a permanent injunction against each Defendant.

On June 23, 2016, the District Court granted the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. 2016 WL 3546292.

It first addressed whether two of the defendants--captains at the prison at the time of the incident--were entitled to qualified immunity. The Court found that there were because there was no clearly established law that could have alerted these Defendants that their actions were unconstitutional. The Court explained that no Supreme Court or Tenth Circuit cases specifically held that accidentally exposing inmates to CS Gas while trying to restraint a resistant inmate is unconstitutional. The Court found that the evidence in this case was clear that the officers did not consider the air intake vents in the area. Additionally, the fact that the CS gas was distributed among the administrative areas of the facility showed that the gas exposure to plaintiffs was accidental.

The Court then reasoned that the Plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment claims for secondary exposure to CS gas would have to be analyzed as excessive force claims, not as conditions of confinement claims. It looked to Tenth Circuit precedent where the Court of Appeals had reversed a District Court judgment that analyzed the use of pepper spray as a conditions of confinement claim. That Court found the use of force rubric appropriate because pepper spray was "an instrument with which prison officers wield their authority, or force". (Citing Despain v. Uphoff, 264 F.3d 965 (10th Cir. 2001))

The District Court then looked to Ninth Circuit precedent which had recognized that secondary exposure claims could succeed if the force used on the intended target was excessive. After noting that the case law in the two circuits appeared to be at odds, meaning that qualified immunity was appropriate because there was no clearly established law on this point, the District Court went on to find that the force used in this case was not excessive anyway. The Court reiterated that deliberate indifference would not govern the excessive use of force and explained that the facts surrounding a disturbance do not determine which standard should apply, instead it was the type of force that determined the applicable standard.

The Court also held that the plaintiffs' Eighth Amendment medical neglect claim against one of the captains failed because that captain did not disregard the risk posed to the plaintiffs' health after they had accidentally been exposed to CS gas. The Court found that he immediately tried to find out where the gas was going, went to the roof to turn off the intake vents, made officers check on each inmate, evacuated the lower security inmates in a timely manner, brought in fans for the higher security inmates, and had medical personnel make contact with each inmate. Thus, there was no evidence that officials at the prison ignored the risk to inmates following the exposure.

As for the Utah Constitutional Claim, the Court explained that the Utah Supreme Court had defined the protections of Utah's Unnecessary Rigor Clause in an identical way in medical treatment cases as the federal courts had defined the protections of the Eighth Amendment. Thus, the state law claim failed for the same reasons the Eighth Amendment claims had.

Finally, the District Court denied the plaintiff's claim for injunctive relief because it found that the prison had changed their practices and procedures relating to the implementation of CS gas and that there was no cognizable danger that a similar incident would occur in the future. Without some cognizable danger of a future incident, the Court refused to grant a permanent injunction ordering Defendants to adopt and comply with written policies regarding the deployment of chemical agents in the Olympus facility.

Following this, the plaintiffs appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, but on February 9, 2018, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment. 882 F.3d 927. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the officers' conduct, at most, only accidentally exposed the prisoners to the CS gas, and that qualified immunity shielded government officials from liability for these kinds of mistakes. Specifically, the Court of Appeals found that the District Court was right to analyze the Eighth Amendment claims as excessive force claims rather than conditions of confinement claims. It went on to explain that no reasonable juror could have believed these officers intended to expose any of these plaintiffs to the gas.

It also held that even if an excessive force claim could be transferred, that is, even if plaintiffs could succeed by showing that officers used excessive force against the individual they did intend to expose to the gas, the plaintiffs claim here would still fail because plaintiffs failed to show that the officers maliciously and sadistically deployed force against that individual.

The Court then analyzed the plaintiffs claims that officers were deliberately indifferent to their serious medical needs. These claims were based on the allegations that the officers: (1) did not allow prisoners to leave their cells to get fresh air or to shower; and (2) discouraged prisoners from seeking medical attention. The Court held that even if these were true, the claims again would fail on qualified immunity grounds. It also held that plaintiffs had forfeited any claim based on officers discouraging prisoners from seeking medical attention because those claims were inadequately briefed. It went on to reason that even if not forfeited, those claims would fail on qualified immunity grounds as well.

Finally, the Court upheld the District Court's finding on the claims under the Utah Constitution, explaining that those claims failed for the same reasons as the Eighth Amendment claims.

As of April 24, 2019, there is no indication that the plaintiffs have appealed that holding, and the case appears closed.

Jessica Kincaid - 02/27/2016
Chris Pollack - 04/23/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Excessive force
Pepper/OC spray
Personal injury
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Utah State Prison
Plaintiff Description Two classes: Damages Class: All prisoners and former prisoners who were in their cells in the Olympus wing of the Utah State Prison on August 3, 2011, and were thereby exposed to noxious o-chlorobenzylidene malononitrile Injunctive Class: All prisoners currently incarcerated in the Olympus wing of the Utah State Prison
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2013
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
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
Book
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
2:13−cv−00393 (D. Utah)
PC-UT-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 2]
PC-UT-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/03/2013
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order (2014 WL 2765469) (D. Utah)
PC-UT-0004-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/17/2014
Source: Bloomberg Law
Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint for Damages, and for Class-Wide Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 69]
PC-UT-0004-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/29/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Decision and Order [ECF# 119] (2016 WL 3546292) (D. Utah)
PC-UT-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/23/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Utah [Ct. of App. ECF# 134]
PC-UT-0004-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/05/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Ebel, David M. (Tenth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0005
Kimball, Dale A. (D. Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0002 | PC-UT-0004-0004 | PC-UT-0004-9000
Lucero, Carlos F. (Tenth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0005
Tymkovich, Timothy M. (Tenth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0005
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown, Bryson R. (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-9000
Farrell, Leah M. (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0001 | PC-UT-0004-9000
Jenkins, Eric K (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0003 | PC-UT-0004-9000
Kiburtz, Kristen C (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-9000
Mejia, John (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0001 | PC-UT-0004-9000
Porter, Karra J. (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-0001 | PC-UT-0004-0003 | PC-UT-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Jones, Joni J. (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-9000
Kaiser, Kyle J. (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-9000
Maloy, Lucia (Utah) show/hide docs
PC-UT-0004-9000

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