Furnace v. Sullivan

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 01-17-2013
  • Case #: 10-15961
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Sack and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

At summary judgment, all inferences must be drawn in favor of the plaintiff when determining qualified immunity for purposes of an Eighth Amendment analysis in a § 1983 claim.

Edward Terran Furnace (“Prisoner”) brought a § 1983 action alleging that, when corrections officers pepper sprayed him excessively and denied him a vegetarian breakfast, the officers violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, respectively. The district court granted officers summary judgment based both on qualified immunity where officers “could have mistakenly, but reasonably perceived” a threat, and where Prisoner failed to show disparate treatment during the meal service in question. The Ninth Circuit concluded that summary judgment granting qualified immunity was improper where, as here, discrepancies are great and because the district court failed to draw all inferences in Prisoner’s favor. On that basis, the Court applied the five factors of Hudson for determining “unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering” in contravention of the Eighth Amendment, and found that (1) use of pepper spray caused “burns, blisters, and skin irritation that persisted for three or four days;” (2) the force “seem[ed] quite extensive and disproportionate relative to the disturbance posed by [Prisoner's] fingertips on the food port” for balance; (3) it was not clear that “use of violent force, prior to a verbal warning, was necessary;” (4) a disputed fact remained whether officers held a “reasonable, but mistaken, belief” Prisoner posed a threat while locked in his cell and not aggressive; and (5) Prisoner received medical care and efforts to “temper the severity of the[] forceful response.” The Court determined that grant of summary judgment on Prisoner’s Equal Protection claim, however, was proper absent evidence that officers treated Prisoner differently than other inmates whom the officers did not know were approved for vegetarian meals for religious reasons. REVERSED and REMANDED in part and AFFIRMED in part.

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