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Denial of Pain Management Medication Reversed

Coston v. Nangalama Docket: 19-16450, Opinion Date: September 15, 2021. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment following a jury trial in an action brought by plaintiff, a California state prisoner, under 42 U.S.C. 1983 against a prison doctor and nurse, alleging claims of deliberate indifference to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from defendants' termination of his prescription for morphine pills without tapering, despite the risk of withdrawal. The panel concluded that the district court's deference instruction, which instructed the jury to defer to defendants' asserted security justification, violated established law under the facts presented and was not harmless. In this case, plaintiff introduced substantial evidence that the prison did not act pursuant to a security-based policy and that the prison had several less drastic alternatives available, including Direct Observation Therapy. Accordingly, the panel remanded for a new trial.


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