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Case Name Hacker v. Cain PC-LA-0018
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-00063-JWD-EWD ( M.D. La. )
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On January 30th, 2014, an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiff initially filed the suit pro se, but subsequently obtained private counsel and submitted his first amended complaint on September 15th, 2014 ... read more >
On January 30th, 2014, an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The plaintiff initially filed the suit pro se, but subsequently obtained private counsel and submitted his first amended complaint on September 15th, 2014. The plaintiff sued the state of Louisiana, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (LDPSC), and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola for serious transgressions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for deliberate indifference to serious medical needs under the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiff alleged that LDPSC utilized discriminatory policies against individuals with disabilities, such as refusing to pay for “elective surgery,” failing to make reasonable work accommodations, and excluding individuals with disabilities from participating in beneficial prison programs and activities. The plaintiff also alleged that the defendants knew about his medical condition but unreasonably delayed treatment, resulting in serious pain and suffering. Specifically, the plaintiff had been suffering from deteriorating eyesight for years as a result of cataracts, but—despite numerous doctors’ recommendations that he required surgery to remedy his progressing blindness—defendants refused to pay for his cataracts surgery on the grounds that it was “elective surgery.” They also required the plaintiff to work in dangerous manual labor jobs, despite his deteriorating vision making him more susceptible to injury, and excluded him from prison programs such as physical exercise, arts, and music. Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, and monetary damages.

However, shortly after the plaintiff filed his initial pro se complaint, the defendants allowed him to receive cataracts surgery—first for one eye in July 2014, then both eyes by September 2014. Subsequently, the plaintiff moved to file a second amended complaint on March 4th, 2015. However, the magistrate judge (Erin Wilder-Doomes), on March 11th, 2015, ruled that the plaintiff had failed to serve his first amended complaint on the defendants in a timely manner and ordered him to show cause for this delay, lest his complaint be dismissed. The magistrate also denied plaintiff’s motion to file a second amended complaint on the same day.

Meanwhile, the defendants submitted their motions to dismiss plaintiff’s first amended complaint—first, the warden in his individual capacity on March 12th, 2015, then all other defendants on March 24th, 2015. The first motion to dismiss alleged that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim for a violation of civil rights since the warden was not a public entity under the ADA and that the State of Louisiana was the real party to the lawsuit. The second motion to dismiss alleged that the defendants were protected under Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity, that plaintiff’s claim for compensatory damages should be dismissed as frivolous, and that the plaintiff had failed to establish good cause for his delay in serving. But, on March 23rd, 2015, the plaintiff filed his response to the magistrate’s order to show cause for his delay to serve their first amended complaint, claiming that he had two main reasons for failing to serve: 1) at the time of the 120-day after the complaint filing deadline, the plaintiff was still unsure as to whether the cataract surgery had been successful, and 2) the plaintiff had already motioned to file a second amended complaint, which would need to be served on the defendants, so he did not want to risk unnecessary expense by serving the first amended complaint.

On April 9th, 2015, the judge (John W. deGravelles) granted both motions to dismiss the first amended complaint, but then vacated these orders on April 10th, 2015. The court then granted plaintiff’s motion to file his second amended complaint on June 2nd, 2015, and the plaintiff filed his second amended complaint that same day.

The plaintiff’s second amended complaint, instead of focusing on the denial of the cataract surgery itself, was framed around LDSPC’s discriminatory policies that led to the long delay before plaintiff’s surgery and which caused him to experience pain and suffering in the interim. Specifically, these included LDSPC’s policies to delay surgery for certain types of disabilities by not paying for “elective surgery,” which included cataract removal surgery, to not make reasonable work accommodations for individuals with disabilities, and to exclude disabled individuals from the benefits of the prison’s services and program activities. Plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and “any other relief to which plaintiff may be justly entitled.”

The defendants filed their motions to dismiss the second amended complaint on June 15th, 2015 and June 30th, 2015, first by the warden and the secretary of LDSPC in their individual capacities and then all defendants in their official capacities. They alleged that plaintiff had failed to state a claim for a violation of civil rights, that they were protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity, and that plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 for his new claims.

At this point, had the judge granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss plaintiff’s second amended complaint, the lawsuit would’ve ended. However, due to oversight or error, the judge did not rule on these motions to dismiss until January 25th, 2016, declaring them moot. In the meantime, first the defendants motioned for summary judgment on September 11th, 2015, then the plaintiffs motioned on judgment on November 6th, 2015. The judge denied both motions on June 6th, 2016. 2016 WL 3167176.

Both parties filed notices of appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 6th, 2016, but both were dismissed on July 26th, 2016. The parties then scheduled a settlement conference order on December 12th, 2016, but they were unable to come to an agreement.

In anticipation of trial, plaintiff filed motions seeking to declare certain kinds of evidence off-limits at trial for fear of prejudicial effect. On January 17th, 2017, the court granted some of these motions, the key ones being that the parties could only mention that the plaintiff was convicted of a felony for which he was serving a life sentence, but nothing about his specific crimes, that they could only introduce evidence of medical care pertaining to plaintiff’s cataracts, and that they could not compare plaintiff’s medical care to medical care received by “free people.”

Immediately prior to trial, on January 25th, 2016, the parties disputed over the issue of injunctive relief. The defendants alleged that the court should declare plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief as moot, since defendants could no longer be enjoined from violating the ADA as the plaintiff no longer suffered from a disability under the ADA. The plaintiff, on the other hand, alleged that he did still suffer from a disability since he was still waiting for surgery for his torn pectoralis muscle, an injury sustained as a result of defendants’ discriminatory policies, and that defendants’ discriminatory policies were still in place, which could result in future violations of the ADA.

The jury trial began on January 30th, 2017. The parties agreed that the court should decide the issue of injunctive relief, not the jury, so the court declared injunctive relief as moot on January 31st, 2017. Subsequently, the judge dismissed the State of Louisiana and its governor as defendants in the lawsuit.

The jury returned its verdict on February 7th, 2017, ruling in favor of the defendants LDPSC, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, LDPSC’s secretary, and Louisiana State Penitentiary’s warden. The jury said that the plaintiff had failed to prove a preponderance of evidence that he suffered a disability under the ADA before he received the cataract removal surgery, and that the individual defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs under the Eighth Amendment by delaying surgery and by requiring him to do manual work despite his visual impairment.

After the trial, on February 17th, 2017, plaintiff asked the court to provide him a copy of the trial transcript by certifying that his appeal was not frivolous. The plaintiff alleged that his grounds for appeal were because the defense counsel had violated the orders the judged dictated before the trial regarding the acceptability of certain kinds of evidence, thereby resulting in a trial that was unfairly prejudiced against the plaintiff. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defense counsel had violated restrictions around mentioning specific details about the plaintiff’s sentence or crime, any medical care not pertaining to the plaintiff’s cataracts, and comparing plaintiff’s medical care to that of “free people.” The defendants disputed the veracity of these claims, but ultimately the court ruled that plaintiff’s appeal was not frivolous and gave him a copy of the trial transcript on March 2nd, 2017.

The plaintiff motioned for a new trial on March 2nd, 2017, alleging that defense counsel violated the court’s restrictions regarding acceptable evidence, that a key witness misrepresented the definition of a disability under the ADA, and that the evidence overwhelmingly contradicts the jury’s verdict. Through March and April 2017, the parties disputed over whether a new trial was warranted. The judge has still not made a ruling on whether a new trial should be granted. The case remains open and active.

Sarah Du - 10/07/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Untreated pain
Vision care
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections
Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola
Plaintiff Description 39 year old visually disabled prisoner at Louisiana State Penitentiary, suffering from cataracts
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Cruel Confinement: Abuse, Discrimination and Death Within Alabama's Prisons
Date: Jun. 4, 2014
(Southern Poverty Law Center )
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  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)
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
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
3:14-cv-63 (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0018-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-LA-0018-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 73]
PC-LA-0018-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/02/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (2016 WL 3167176) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0018-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/06/2016
Source: Westlaw
Statement of Interest of the United States [ECF# 203]
PC-LA-0018-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 12/07/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [ECF# 278] (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0018-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/06/2017
Source: Bloomberg Law
Judges DeGravelles, John Wheadon (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0018-0004 | PC-LA-0018-0005 | PC-LA-0018-9000
Wilder Doomes, Wilder Court not on record [Magistrate]
PC-LA-0018-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adcock, John Nelson (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-0003 | PC-LA-0018-9000
Most, William (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Trenticosta, Nicholas J. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-0003 | PC-LA-0018-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Animashaun, Babatunde Mobolade (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Blanchfield, Andrew (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Cobb, Brent Joseph (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
LeBlanc, Crews Reynolds Jr. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Payne, Chelsea Acosta (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Willis, Grant Lloyd (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-9000
Other Lawyers Bains, Chiraag (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Coon, Laura (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Green, Walt (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Maraist, Catherine M. (Louisiana)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Moossy, Robert J. (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Patrie, Aparna (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001
Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia)
PC-LA-0018-0001

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