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Federal Court Rules Nurse Not Entitled to Qualified Immunity in Prisoner Suit

Patrick Russell v. Jocelyn Lumitap Court: US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Docket: 18-55831, Opinion Date: April 13, 2022. The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s denial of qualified immunity to medical providers at Orange County Jail in 1983 claims alleging that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the medical needs of Plaintiff, a detainee who died from a ruptured aortic dissection. The court stated to defeat qualified immunity, Plaintiff must show that a reasonable official would have understood that their actions presented an unconstitutional substantial risk of harm to Plaintiff. Defendant, the on-call physician at the time, could not have reasonably believed that he could provide constitutionally adequate care without even examining a patient with Plaintiff’s symptoms. Therefore, the district court was correct in denying summary judgment on qualified immunity to this Defendant. The court further held that the first nurse to see Plaintiff had access to facts from which an inference could be drawn that Plaintiff was at serious risk.

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