University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Graham v. Parker PC-TN-0015
Docket / Court 16-cv-01954 ( M.D. Tenn. )
State/Territory Tennessee
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Post-WalMart decisions on class certification
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Case Summary
On July 25, 2016, prisoners at the Tennessee Department of Corrections filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiffs sued the Commissioner and the Medical Director of the Tennessee Department of Corrections under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ... read more >
On July 25, 2016, prisoners at the Tennessee Department of Corrections filed this class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee. Plaintiffs sued the Commissioner and the Medical Director of the Tennessee Department of Corrections under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs claimed that defendants violated their Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by failing to provide medically acceptable care to prisoners with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), despite having knowledge of the proper standard of care and medical advances in HCV treatment. Such a policy, alleged the plaintiffs, constituted deliberate indifference to the suffering of the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs were represented by the ACLU, Disability Rights Tennessee, and private counsel. They sought a declaration that the policies and practices of the defendants were unconstitutional and an injunction to require defendants to implement a plan to eliminate the risk of serious harm resulting from inadequate diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of HCV infections, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated. Plaintiffs further sought monetary relief in the form of the costs of the suit and attorneys' fees and litigation expenses.

On September 16, 2016 the plaintiffs moved to certify their class, and on May 4, 2017, Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw granted the motion. The class consisted of "All persons currently incarcerated in any facility under the supervision or control of the Tennessee Department of Corrections or persons incarcerated in a public or privately owned facility for whom the Tennessee Department of Corrections has ultimate responsibility for their medical care and who have at least 12 weeks or more remaining to serve on their sentences and are either currently diagnosed with Hepatitis C infection or are determined to have Hepatitis C after an appropriate screening test has been administered by the Department of Corrections." 2017 WL 1737871. The defendants tried to appeal this class certification decision, but were denied leave to appeal on August 10, 2017.

A lengthy and heavily contested discovery process followed. On June 29, 2018 defendants filed a motion for summary judgment which was denied on June 6, 2019. The case went to trial on July 16, 2019, and finished July 19, 2019. On September 30, 2019 Judge Crenshaw issued a judgment for the defendants.

The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal on October 30, 2019, and on August 24, 2020 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Eric E. Murphy) affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court’s reasoning was significantly influenced by the parties' agreement to focus on the 2019 policy for HCV rather than the original 2016 policy at the trial.

Quoting the trial court’s findings of fact and conclusion of law, the Sixth Circuit agreed that the 2016 policy was “erratic, uneven, and poor” and “border[ed] on deliberate indifference” as it “prioritized” the best treatment, direct-acting antivirals, for only those with severe liver scaring giving no consideration to other factors, despite the knowledge that antivirals often halt the progress of HCV or cause it disappear completely.

However, the court found that the 2019 policy represented a significant improvement. It expanded testing for HCV and established more forgiving criteria for which cases received the direct-acting antivirals (not all cases could receive the treatment due to budget restrictions). Moreover, the 2019 policy established “continuous care and monitoring of infected inmates, regardless of their course of treatment.” The court thus held that the defendant “sought to employ the finite resources at his disposal to maximize their benefit for the inmates in his care.” And it observed that, while the plaintiff’s claim that every inmate should have received the antiviral is certainly desirable, such a demand would have required the defendant to “spend money he did not have.”

Judge Ronald Lee Gilman dissented, and argued that the court failed to consider the serious harm caused by the delay in proper treatment as a result of the defendant's 2016 policy and the continuing rationing of care in the 2019 policy. Moreover, he argued that lack of funding (which he suggested the defendant could have tried harder to address) was not an excuse for the violation of the Eight Amendment. 972 F.3d 734.

The case is likely over, but the plaintiffs could still appeal or seek reconsideration of the Sixth Circuit's ruling.

Elena Malik - 10/05/2017
Lisa Limb - 05/07/2019
Madeline Buday - 10/14/2020


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
Disability
disability, unspecified
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Assault/abuse by staff
Conditions of confinement
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Hepatitis
Medical care, general
Untreated pain
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Tennessee Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Persons currently incarcerated in any facility under the supervision or control of the Tennessee Department of Corrections or persons incarcerated in a public or privately owned facility for whom the Department has ultimate responsibility for their medical care and who have at least twelve weeks or more remaining to serve on their sentences and are either currently diagnosed with HCV or are determined to have HCV after an appropriate screening has been administered by the Department.
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
Filed 07/25/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Docket(s)
3:16-cv-1954 (M.D. Tenn.)
PC-TN-0015-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [With Exhibits] [ECF# 1]
PC-TN-0015-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/25/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Class Certification [ECF# 15]
PC-TN-0015-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/16/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class [ECF# 20]
PC-TN-0015-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/11/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiffs' Reply to Defendants' Response in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Certify Class [ECF# 24]
PC-TN-0015-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/30/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum [ECF# 32] (2017 WL 1737871) (M.D. Tenn.)
PC-TN-0015-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/04/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law [ECF# 260] (412 F.Supp.3d 761) (M.D. Tenn.)
PC-TN-0015-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/30/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 32-2] (972 F.3d 734)
PC-TN-0015-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/24/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Brown, Joe B. (M.D. Tenn.) [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-9000
Crenshaw, Waverly David Jr. (M.D. Tenn.) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0005 | PC-TN-0015-0006 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Gilman, Ronald Lee (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007
Kethledge, Raymond M. (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007
Murphy, Eric Earl (Sixth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007
Plaintiff's Lawyers Campbell, Karla M. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0001 | PC-TN-0015-0002 | PC-TN-0015-0004 | PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Castelli, Thomas H. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0001 | PC-TN-0015-0002 | PC-TN-0015-0004 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Jennings, Callie Kate Barker (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-9000
Logsdon, Elizabeth S. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0001 | PC-TN-0015-0002 | PC-TN-0015-0004 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Orlandi, Anthony A (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-9000
Price, Stacie L (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-9000
Stranch, James Gerard III (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Wall, Michael J (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Wilds, Sherry A. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brough, Madeline B. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0003 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Dowty, Matthew R (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Hart, Steven Ashley (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Lorch, Pamela S. (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0003 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Newsom, James R. III (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0007 | PC-TN-0015-9000
Slatery, Herbert III (Tennessee) show/hide docs
PC-TN-0015-0003

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -