Civil Case Law - First Circuit

Calderon-Ortiz v. LaBoy-Alvarado , 300 F.3d 60 (1st Cir. 2002):  Correctional facilities’ knowledge that inmates were being housed without regard to custody and security needs, and that staff were not adequately supervising inmates was sufficient knowledge of an unreasonable and substantial danger to inmates.  The correctional officials failed to end this practice, which constituted disregard of a substantial harm, and the facility could therefore be held liable under the Eighth Amendment.

Fox v. Superintendent, Strafford County Dept. of Corrections , 2012 WL 2277928 (D.N.H. June 18, 2012): Correctional officers placed a homosexual male inmate suffering from PTSD (as a result of past sexual abuse) in a cell with a known sexual predator, despite their awareness of the inmate’s particular vulnerabilities.  The inmate was subsequently raped by his cellmate.  The court denied the officers’ motion to dismiss, finding the officers had sufficient knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.

Chao v. Ballista , 806 F. Supp. 2d 358 (D. Mass. 2011): Female inmate had between 50-100 sexual encounters with a male correctional officer.  The jury found that the coercive sexual relationship was sufficiently harmful to sustain an Eighth Amendment violation although the encounters were non-coercive (meaning the inmate did not explicitly refuse). The court also found the individual officer could be held liable for the state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, as well as a violation of the state’s civil rights act.  The individual officer and the prison superintendent were found jointly liable for $67,500, and the individual officer was held liable for punitive damages of $6,200.

Palermo v. Rhode Island ACI, 2010 WL 2731429 (D.R.I. Jun. 16, 2010):  Male correctional officer repeatedly rubbed against male inmate while making “sexual comments.” The court found that these allegations described only inappropriate conduct, and were insufficient to sustain an Eighth Amendment violation.

Marion v. Commissioner, Maine Dep’t of Corrections , 2009 WL 1150104 (D. Me. Apr. 29, 2009): Male correctional officers forced a male inmate to hold his own genitals in a provocative position and walk down the hall while the correctional officers, including one female correctional officer, looked on.  The court denied a motion to dismiss, as forcing the inmate to hold his genitals and walk down hall without a legitimate penological purpose could be considered an Eighth Amendment violation, and a potential state law claim of assault.

Knowles v. Maine , 2009 WL 3517589 (D. Me. Oct. 29, 2009): Male inmate alleged that he was sexually and racially harassed, and that male correctional officers called him “gay” and “the hairy little gay guy.”  The court ruled that although the conduct was unprofessional, words alone do not amount to an Eighth Amendment violation.

Woods v. York County , 534 F. Supp. 2d 153 (D. Me. 2008): A male correctional officer sexually assaulted a female inmate, prompting the facility to begin an internal investigation of the officer.  While under investigation for the initial assault, the officer entered the inmate’s cell, kissed her, fondled her breasts, and had her perform oral sex on him.  The court found that prison officials could not be held liable for the second assault of the inmate under deliberate indifference, as there was no evidence of a custom of failing to investigate allegations of correctional officer misconduct. 

Collins v. Graham , 377 F. Supp. 2d 241 (D. Me. 2005): Male inmate claimed that male correctional officers made sexually suggestive statements, attempted to grab him in a sexual manner, and that one correctional officer exposed his genitalia to him. The court found that none of these allegations supported an Eighth Amendment violation.

Rivera-Rodriguez v. Pereira-Castillo , 2005 WL 290160 (D.P.R. Jan. 31, 2005): A male juvenile detainee was sexually assaulted by four inmates in an attack lasting approximately one-half hour.  The court found that the correctional officers could be found deliberately indifferent, as the complaint alleged that the defendants were aware of security lapses and the unreasonable risk of assault, but failed to provide adequate security.

Faas v. Washington County, 260 F. Supp. 2d 198 (D. Me. 2003):   A male correctional officer forced a female inmate to show him her breasts, placed his penis in her mouth, and masturbated onto the inmate. On a second occasion, the correctional officer inserted his finger into the inmate’s vagina.  The court denied the county and sheriff’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the widespread non-coercive sexual relationships between correctional officers and staff could constitute deliberate indifference to the sexual assault of the female inmate, if the country and sheriff were aware of these relationships and failed to act accordingly.