Campbell v. State of Washington

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 11-07-2011
  • Case #: 09-35892
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bybee for the Court; District Judge Wilken; Circuit Judge B. Fletcher dissenting
  • Full Text Opinion

A government caretaker is not liable under § 1983 when there is not special relationship between the patient and the state, and when the state actors did not take an affirmative act to create a dangerous situation.

Campbell's developmentally delayed adult daughter, Justine Booth, was found unconscious in a bathtub when she was enrolled in the State of Washington's State Operated Living Alternative ("SOLA") program. Defendant employees were responsible for her care and Justine died one week later. Campbell sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "alleging that Defendants deprived Justine her Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process right to safe physical conditions while in involuntary state custody." The district court found that "Campbell did not present a genuine issue of material fact as to her § 1983 claim because she did not proffer evidence that the state owed Justine an affirmative duty of care" and "Defendants were protected by qualified immunity." Campbell appealed arguing that the state failed to protect Justine's "liberty interest in her own bodily security" under two theories: (1) that a special relationship existed, and (2) there was a "state-created danger." The Ninth Circuit held that neither theory were an exception in this case to the general rule that a state's failure to protect an individual's liberty interest in their own "bodily security" was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. First, the Ninth Circuit held that the "special relationship exception" did not apply, as the state did not take Justine into its custody and hold her there against her will. Secondly, the Ninth Circuit held that the state did not create a danger because there was no proof that the defendants had "deliberate indifference to a known or obvious danger" and because their acts were not "affirmative acts" that created the situation that resulted in Justine's death. AFFIRMED.

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