Civil Case Law - Fourth Circuit

Meadows v. Saunders , 14 F.3d 595 (4th Cir. 1993):  The court found there was a potential Eighth Amendment claim, where an inmate sexually assaulted by another inmate had previously complained to correctional officers about his fear of being assaulted.

Woodhos v. Virginia , 487 F.2d 889 (4th Cir. 1973): Plaintiff claimed to be a potential victim of sexual assault due to his age and build, and the pervasiveness of sexual assault in the facility in which he was housed.  He also claimed to be in particular danger, as he aided a younger prisoner who was being sexually assaulted.  The court found that an inmate has a right to be free “from constant threat of violence and sexual assault by his fellow inmates, and he need not wait until he is actually assaulted to obtain relief.”

Carrington v. Easley , 2011 WL 2132850 (E.D.N.C. May 25, 2011): Male inmate sexually assaulted while strip searched. The correctional officer instructed the inmate to remove his clothing, grabbed the inmate’s penis, and attempted to place his mouth by the inmate’s penis.  The court found this was sufficient to state an Eighth Amendment violation, and awarded the inmate $5,000 in punitive damages against the individual officer.

Jones v. South West Virginia Regional Jail , 2011 WL 1212727 (W.D. Va. Mar. 29, 2011): An inmate was sexually abused by his cellmate.  The court dismissed his claims, because there was not sufficient information that any jail official knew, in time to prevent the harm, that the plaintiff’s cellmate was abusing him.

Oliver v. Harper , 2011 WL 1104134 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 22, 2011): Male officer forced female inmate to have sex inside of inmate’s cell. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claim against the prison officials, finding that a single prior incident was insufficient to support deliberate indifference.  The court also dismissed the constitutional and state law claims against the county, the sheriff’s department, and the officer’s in their official capacity. The court allowed the plaintiff to proceed on her claim against the individual officer.

Etters v. Bennett , 2011 WL 976472 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 16, 2011): Female inmates filed suit against correctional officers, citing numerous instances of sexual assault.  The court found that the allegations of repeated rape and the order to an inmate to expose her breasts and genitals to a correctional officer, who then put his mouth on the inmate’s breast, would be violations of the Eighth Amendment.   The court also found that allegations that a correctional officer observed an inmate dressing, or that an officer sexually propositioned or otherwise attempted to coerce a female inmate into sexual activity did not arise to the level of an Eighth Amendment claim.

Smith v. Beck , 2011 WL 65962 (M.D.N.C. Jan. 10, 2011):  A male inmate was sexually abused by a female assistant superintendent several times a week over the course of nine months.  The assistant superintendent was charged and convicted of sexual activity by a custodian.  The court found that prison officials could not be held liable, as there was no evidence that they were aware of a pattern or practice of similarly high-ranking prison officials engaging in sexual abuse of prisoners.

Mitchell v. Rappahannock Regional Jail Authority , 703 F. Supp. 2d 549 (E.D. Va. 2010): Female inmate was sexually assaulted by a male correctional officer on over ten occasions, including forced oral sex.  The court found the officer’s supervisors could be held liable under the Eighth Amendment, as the supervisors had knowledge of the sexual assaults, having either witnessed or participated in the conduct.

McCoy v. Bazzle, 2009 WL 3169963 (D.S.C. Sept. 28, 2009):  The court found there was no Eighth Amendment violation where a male correctional officer touched a male inmate on his buttocks, absent any showing of a physical injury.

Carr v. Hazelwood , 2007 WL 4410694 (W.D. Va. Dec. 14, 2007): Male correctional officer inserted his fingers into female inmate’s vagina.  The court found this allegation sufficiently stated an Eighth Amendment claim, as there was no legitimate purpose for the correctional officer’s actions, and the injury was more than de minimis, as the inmate alleged she urinated blood and suffered from incontinence due to the assault.

Heckenlaible v. Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail Authority , 2007 WL 1732385 (E.D. Va. Jun. 13, 2007): Male correctional officer escorted a female pre-trial detainee to the shower, and stared at her while she was showering in violation of agency policy.  That same day, he sexually assaulted her in her cell, forcing her to perform oral sex on him. The court found that both the officer and jail officials could be held liable under state law tort theories and Fourteenth Amendment due process.

Green v. Sacchet , 2002 WL 32639150 (D. Md. Dec. 10, 2002): Male correctional officers forced male inmate to have intercourse with his cellmate, and made sexual advances against the inmate.  The court found there was no Eighth Amendment violation, as no single incident was severe enough to be objectively, sufficiently serious, and the incidents considered cumulatively were not egregious.