Cortez v. Skol

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 01-26-2015
  • Case #: 12-16688
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Friedland for the Court; Circuit Judges Watford and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

Granting summary judgment is improper when there is sufficient evidence that a prison official is aware of the risk involved in a particular transport and acts with deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s safety.

Officer Bill Skol, against prison policy, “escorted three mutually hostile, half-restrained, high-security inmates by himself through an isolated prison passage known as 'no man’s land.'" While escorting them, “two of the inmates attacked the third, Philip Cortez, and stomped on the back of his head for five minutes as he lay face down and was handcuffed on the ground.” As a result of the attack, Cortez suffered a permanent severe mental impairment. Cortez’s mother brought a § 1983 claim on Cortez’s behalf “against Skol and a gross negligence claim against the State of Arizona.” Summary judgment was granted to Skol and Arizona. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that, viewed in the light most favorable to Cortez, there was "sufficient evidence that Skol’s escort posed a substantial risk of serious harm . . . there [was] sufficient evidence that Skol was subjectively aware of the risk involved in the escort and acted with deliberate indifference to Cortez’s safety . . . [and] there [was] material fact disputes with respect to deliberate indifference.” Additionally, the panel held that “because Arizona’s gross negligence standard is lower than the federal deliberate indifference standard, [the panel] necessarily concluded that there was also material fact disputes with respect to gross negligence." REVERSED and REMANDED.

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