Section 1983 Litigation/Survivorship and Wrongful Death

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Section 1983 Litigation
Table of Contents
Introduction to § 1983 Litigation
The Statute
Historical Background
Nature of § 1983 Litigation
Right to Trial by Jury
Jury Instructions
Constitutional Claims Against Federal Officials: The Bivens Doctrine
Section 1983 Does Not Encompass Claims Against Federal Officials
The Bivens Claim for Relief
Law Governing Bivens Claims
Elements of Claim, Functional Role, Pleading, and Jurisdiction
Elements of the § 1983 Claim
Functional Role of § 1983
Pleading § 1983 Claims
Federal Court Jurisdiction
State Court Jurisdiction
Section 1983 Plaintiffs
Persons Entitled to Bring Suit Under § 1983
Constitutional Rights Enforceable Under § 1983
Due Process Rights: In General
Procedural Due Process
Substantive Due Process Claims
Use of Force by Government Officials: Sources of Constitutional Protection
Arrests and Searches
Malicious Prosecution Claims Under Fourth Amendment
Conditions-of-Confinement Claims Under Eighth Amendment
First Amendment Claims
Equal Protection “Class-of-One” Claims
Enforcement of Federal Statutes Under § 1983
Enforcement of Federal “Rights”
Specific Comprehensive Scheme Demonstrating Congressional Intent to Foreclose § 1983 Remedy
Current Supreme Court Approach
Enforcement of Federal Regulations Under § 1983
Color of State Law and State Action
State and Local Officials
State Action Tests
Section 1983 Defendants
State Defendants
Interplay of “Person” and Eleventh Amendment Issues
Municipal Defendants
State Versus Municipal Policy Maker
Departments, Offices, and Commissions
Capacity of Claim: Individual Versus Official Capacity
Municipal Liability
Fundamental Principles of § 1983 Municipal Liability
Officially Promulgated Policy
Municipal Policy Makers
Custom or Practice
Inadequate Training
Inadequate Hiring
Pleading Municipal Liability Claims
Liability of Supervisors
Relationship Between Individual and Municipal Liability
Los Angeles v. Heller
If Plaintiff Prevails on Personal-Capacity Claim
“Cost Allocation Scheme”
State Liability: The Eleventh Amendment
Relationship Between Suable § 1983 “Person” and Eleventh Amendment Immunity
Eleventh Amendment Protects State Even When Sued by Citizen of Defendant State
State Liability in § 1983 Actions
Personal-Capacity Claims
Municipal Liability; the Hybrid Entity Problem
Eleventh Amendment Waivers
Eleventh Amendment Appeals
Personal-Capacity Claims: Absolute Immunities
Absolute Versus Qualified Immunity: The Functional Approach
Judicial Immunity
Prosecutorial Immunity
Witness Immunity
Legislative Immunity
Personal Liability: Qualified Immunity
Who May Assert Qualified Immunity? Private Party State Actors
Clearly Established Federal Law
Procedural Aspects of Qualified Immunity
Exhaustion of State Remedies
State Judicial Remedies: Parratt-Hudson Doctrine
Preiser, Heck, and Beyond
State Administrative Remedies; PLRA
Notice of Claim
Preclusion Defenses
State Court Judgments
Administrative Res Judicata
Arbitration Decisions
Statute of Limitations
Limitations Period
Relation Back
Survivorship and Wrongful Death
Wrongful Death
Abstention Doctrines
Pullman Abstention; State Certification Procedure
Younger Abstention
Colorado River Abstention
Burford Abstention
Domestic Relations Doctrine
Tax Injunction Act
Monetary Relief
Nominal and Compensatory Damages
Punitive Damages
Release-Dismissal Agreements
Prison Litigation Reform Act
Attorneys’ Fees
Section 1988 Fee Litigation
Prevailing Parties
Computation of Fee Award: Lodestar Adjustment Method
Other Fee Issues
Model Instructions
Model Instruction 1: Section 1983—Elements of Claim—Action Under Color of State Law
Model Instruction 2: Fourth Amendment Excessive Force Claim
Model Instruction 3: Eighth Amendment Prisoner Excessive Force Claim
Model Instruction 4: Fourth Amendment False Arrest Claim
Model Instruction 5: Municipal Liability—General Instruction
Model Instruction 6: Municipal Liability—Inadequate Training or Supervision
Model Instruction 7: Compensatory Damages
Model Instruction 8: Punitive Damages

Survivorship[edit | edit source]

Survivorship of § 1983 claims is not covered by federal law. In Robertson v. Wegmann,[1] the Supreme Court held that to remedy this deficiency, 42 U.S.C. § 1988(a) requires federal courts to borrow state survivorship law, so long as it is not inconsistent with the policies of § 1983.[2] The Court identified the policies underlying § 1983 as including “compensation of persons injured by deprivation of federal rights and prevention of abuses of power by those acting under color of state law.”[3] It ruled, however, that the mere fact that the particular § 1983 claim abates under state law does not mean that the state law is inconsistent with the policies of § 1983. Rather, whether state survivorship law is compatible with the policies of § 1983 depends on whether that state law is generally hospitable to the survival of § 1983 claims.[4] The Court held that the Louisiana law was not inconsistent with the policies of § 1983 despite causing the particular § 1983 claim to abate.[5] However, it indicated that the result might be different if the “deprivation of federal right caused death.”[6]

Wrongful Death[edit | edit source]

The Supreme Court has not resolved whether a wrongful death claim may be brought under § 1983. There is considerable disagreement on this issue in the lower courts.[7] Some courts have viewed the absence of a federal § 1983 wrongful death policy as a deficiency in federal law and, under § 1988(a), have borrowed state wrongful death law.[8] Other courts have inquired whether the defendant’s conduct, which caused a death, violated the constitutionally protected rights of a surviving relative.[9] There is also scholarship supporting the argument that § 1983 itself authorizes a wrongful death remedy.[10] Of course, the § 1983 plaintiff may attempt to assert a state law wrongful death claim under the federal court’s supplemental jurisdiction.[11]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 436 U.S. 584 (1978).
  2. Id. at 590. When applying state survival law, a federal court must analogize the § 1983 claim to the most analogous state law claims. Benz v. City of Kendallville, 577 F.3d 776, 779 (7th Cir. 2009).
  3. Robertson, 436 U.S. at 591.
  4. Id. at 591–93. See, e.g., Banks v. Yokemick, 177 F. Supp. 2d 239, 249–50 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (New York survivorship law, which denies recovery for loss of enjoyment of life, is inconsistent with § 1983 policies of compensation and deterrence).
  5. Robertson, 436 U.S. at 591–93. In Estate of Gilliam v. City of Prattville, 639 F.3d 1041 (11th Cir. 2011), the court held that Alabama survivorship law, under which unfiled personal injury claims do not survive the death of an injured party, is not inconsistent with the policies of § 1983. There was no evidence that defendant-officers’ use of force caused decedent’s death, and Alabama law applied uniformly and did not target § 1983 claims.

    In the vast majority of cases, applying Alabama law through § 1988(a) will compensate the constitutionally injured and impose liability on those state officials who violate the Constitution. First, when an injured party actually files a § 1983 action and later dies, that action will survive death. . . . Second, when a constitutional violation actually causes the injured party’s death, a § 1983 claim can be asserted through the Alabama wrongful death statute. . . .

    Id. at 1047.

  6. Robertson, 436 U.S. at 594. See, e.g., Chaudhry v. City of L.A., 751 F.3d 1096, 1103–05 (9th Cir. 2014) (California law denying recovery for decedent’s pre-death pain and suffering inconsistent with § 1983’s deterrence policies).
  7. See, e.g., Carringer v. Rodgers, 331 F.3d 844, 850 n.9 (11th Cir. 2003) (“right to wrongful death recovery under § 1983 has generated considerable debate amongst our sister circuits”).
  8. See, e.g., Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401, 404–06 (5th Cir. 1961).
  9. See, e.g., Trujillo v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm’rs, 768 F.2d 1186, 1189–90 (10th Cir. 1985).
  10. See Steven H. Steinglass, Wrongful Death Actions and Section 1983, 60 Ind. L.J. 559 (1985). The various § 1983 wrongful death theories are discussed in 1B Martin A. Schwartz, Section 1983 Litigation: Claims and Defenses §§ 13.03–13.07 (4th ed. 2014).
  11. 28 U.S.C. § 1367. See supra Chapter 1.