September 12, 2014 4th Circuit published opinion

Danser v Stansberry

Danser was severely beaten by a fellow inmate while in an enclosed recreation area. He sued Stansberry and other members of the facility staff seeking damages under Bivens. The district court denied Stansberry’s motion for judgment on qualified immunity grounds as well as those of the corrections officers sued. The panel reversed as to each defendant. It held that the officer who negligently left Danser and the other inmate unsupervised was entitled to immunity as there was no evidence that he knew Danser was a sex offender, no evidence that an existing order to keep Danser separated from a different inmate meant he should be kept away from all inmates or that the officer was required to look at databases of information on Danser and the other inmate. The panel reversed as to Stansberry and another supervisor holding there was no evidence either had anything to do with the decision to put Danser in the area with another inmate or to leave them unsupervised. As supervisors cannot be vicariously liable, immunity applied as a matter of law. The opinion was originally issued in July as an unpublished opinion and the government’s motion to publish was granted today.

 

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