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Case Name Hacker v. Cain PC-LA-0018
Docket / Court 3:14-cv-00063-JWD-EWD ( M.D. La. )
Additional Docket(s) 3:13-cv-00490-JJB-EWD  [ 13-490 ]
3:16-cv-00842-SDD-RLB  [ 16-842 ]
State/Territory Louisiana
Case Type(s) Disability Rights-Pub. Accom.
Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On January 30, 2014, an inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola filed this 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 ... read more >
On January 30, 2014, an inmate at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola filed this 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 15, 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 as required by the Eighth Amendment. The plaintiff alleged that LDPSC utilized discriminatory policies against individuals with disabilities by 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—the 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 that made him more susceptible to injury, and excluded him from prison programs such as physical exercise, arts, and music. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, and monetary damages. This case was assigned to Judge John W. deGravelles and referred to Magistrate Judge Erin Wilder-Doomes.

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 4, 2015. However, the magistrate judge ruled one week later 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 judge also denied the plaintiff’s motion to file a second amended complaint.

Meanwhile, the defendants submitted motions to dismiss the plaintiff’s first amended complaint—first, the warden in his individual capacity on March 12, 2015, then all the other defendants on March 24, 2015. The warden’s motion to dismiss alleged that the plaintiff failed to state a claim for a violation of civil rights since the warden was not a public entity under the ADA and that Louisiana was the real party to the lawsuit. The remaining defendants’ motions to dismiss alleged that they were protected under Eleventh Amendment immunity, that the plaintiff’s claim for compensatory damages was frivolous, and that the plaintiff had failed to establish good cause for his delay in serving his first amended complaint. However, the day before, the plaintiff filed his response to the magistrate’s order to show cause for his delay in serving his first amended complaint. The plaintiff claimed that he had two main reasons for failing to serve: (1) at the time of the complaint filing deadline, he was still unsure as to whether the cataract surgery had been successful, and (2) he had already moved 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 9, 2015, the court granted both motions to dismiss the first amended complaint, but vacated these orders the next day. The court then granted the plaintiff’s motion to file his second amended complaint on June 2, 2015. 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 the 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, programs, and activities. The plaintiff sought injunctive relief, declaratory judgment, monetary damages, and any other relief the court deemed necessary.

The defendants moved to dismiss the second amended complaint on June 15, 2015 and June 30, 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 the plaintiff had failed to state a claim for a violation of civil rights, that they were protected by Eleventh Amendment immunity, and that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Prison Litigation Reform Act. The court did not rule on these motions to dismiss until January 25, 2016, declaring them moot. In the meantime, both parties moved for summary judgment—the defendants on September 11, 2015 and the plaintiffs on November 6, 2015. The court denied both motions on June 6, 2016. 2016 WL 3167176.

Both parties appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on July 6, 2016, but both appeals were voluntarily dismissed on July 26, 2016. The parties then scheduled a settlement conference order on December 12, 2016, but they were unable to come to an agreement.

Five days before trial, on January 25, 2017, the parties disputed the issue of injunctive relief. The defendants alleged that the court should declare plaintiff’s claim for injunctive relief moot, since the plaintiff no longer suffered from a disability under the ADA. The plaintiff, on the other hand, alleged that he still suffered from a disability since he was waiting for surgery for his torn pectoralis muscle, an injury sustained as a result of the defendants’ discriminatory policies, and that the defendants’ discriminatory policies were still in place, which could result in future violations of the ADA.

The jury trial began on January 30, 2017. The parties agreed that the court should decide the issue of injunctive relief instead of the jury. The court declared injunctive relief moot on January 31, 2017. Subsequently, the judge dismissed Louisiana and its governor as defendants in the lawsuit.

The jury returned its verdict on February 7, 2017, ruling in favor of the defendants. The jury said that the plaintiff had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he suffered from 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 labor despite his visual impairment.

After the trial, on February 17, 2017, the plaintiff asked the court to certify that an appeal of the February 7, 2017 judgment was not frivolous and to grant him a free transcript of his trial. The plaintiff alleged that his grounds for appeal were because the defense counsel had violated the court’s January 17, 2017 holding regarding the acceptability of certain categories of evidence, thereby resulting in a trial that was unfairly prejudiced against him. Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defense counsel had violated restrictions by mentioning specific details about the plaintiff’s sentence or crime, medical care not pertaining to the plaintiff’s cataracts, and comparing the plaintiff’s medical care to that of “free people.” The defendants disputed the veracity of these claims, but ultimately the court ruled that the plaintiff’s appeal was not frivolous and gave him a copy of the trial transcript on March 2, 2017.

The plaintiff moved for a new trial on March 2, 2017, alleging that the 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 contradicted the jury’s verdict. Through March and April 2017 the parties disputed whether a new trial was warranted.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial on October 30, 2017. The court held that the plaintiff made no specific showing of prejudice from the defense counsel’s violations, that the jury could reasonably have rejected the plaintiff's and other inmates’ testimony that the plaintiff’s visual impairments actually affected his daily life, and that the jury could reasonably have found that none of the defendants acted towards the plaintiff with deliberate indifference, as required to prevail on an Eighth Amendment claim. 2017 WL 6803760. The plaintiff appealed this holding on November 3, 2017.

On December 27, 2018, the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed the district court’s denial of a motion for a new trial. The Fifth Circuit found that a reasonable jury could have found that the plaintiff was not disabled and that the plaintiff did not show that he was prejudiced by defense counsel mentioning excluded categories of evidence, since those references were brief and vague. 2018 WL 6822306.

This case is now closed.

Sarah Du - 10/07/2017
Hannah Greenhouse - 03/23/2019


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Visual impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
General
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Payment for care
Reasonable Accommodations
Reasonable Modifications
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 suffering from cataracts at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Filing Year 2014
Case Closing Year 2018
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)
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]
17-30879 (U.S. Court of Appeals)
PC-LA-0018-9001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/18/2019
Source: Bloomberg Law
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-LA-0018-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/30/2014
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment [Ct. of App. ECF# 324]
PC-LA-0018-0007.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
Ruling and Order [ECF# 315] (2017 WL 6803760) (M.D. La.)
PC-LA-0018-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 10/30/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges DeGravelles, John Wheadon (M.D. La.) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0004 | PC-LA-0018-0005 | PC-LA-0018-0006 | PC-LA-0018-9000
King, Carolyn Dineen [Randall] (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0007 | PC-LA-0018-9001
Owen, Priscilla Richman (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0007 | PC-LA-0018-9001
Stewart, Carl E. (Fifth Circuit) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0007 | PC-LA-0018-9001
Wilder-Doomes, Erin Court not on record [Magistrate] show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Adcock, John Nelson (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0003 | PC-LA-0018-9000 | PC-LA-0018-9001
Most, William (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Trenticosta, Nicholas J. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0003 | PC-LA-0018-9000
Weiss, Samuel (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9001
Defendant's Lawyers Animashaun, Babatunde Mobolade (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Blanchfield, Andrew (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000 | PC-LA-0018-9001
Cobb, Brent Joseph (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
LeBlanc, Crews Reynolds Jr. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Payne, Chelsea Acosta (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Willis, Grant Lloyd (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-9000
Other Lawyers Bains, Chiraag (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Coon, Laura (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Green, Walt (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Gupta, Vanita (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Maraist, Catherine M. (Louisiana) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Moossy, Robert J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Patrie, Aparna (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001
Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-LA-0018-0001

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