Summary Judgment Granted on Claim Arising out of Angola Prison Knife Attack

A security officer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana was sued by an Angola inmate, Alfred Deal, for failing to stop another inmate, Myles Allen, from stabbing him. The dispute between the inmates began over control of a prison television during which Allen threatened to kill Deal. The following day, while being escorted to a yard, Allen broke free from his restraints and stabbed Deal with a homemade knife.

Deal v. Department of Corrections, et al.

Deal filed a federal civil rights action against Master Sergeant Bobby Earl for failing to protect him from the attack, Deal v. Department of Corrections, et al., No. 16-00061, 2018 WL 4935454, at *2 (M.D. La. Oct. 11, 2018). Deal alleged that the officer’s failure to protect him violated his Eight Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Federal courts have extended the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition to prison officials, who have a constitutional duty to protect inmates from physical harm caused by their fellow inmates.

judge holds Plaintiff failed to Establish Deliberate Indifference

In order for a plaintiff to prove an Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim, he or she must show that they were incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm and that the security officer was deliberately indifferent to this risk. The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal has explained that deliberate indifference is a very high standard for a plaintiff to meet. It requires evidence that the officer is aware of facts from which she could infer that a substantial risk of harm exists and that officer actually draws that inference.

On the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, Judge Brian Jackson held that Deal did not present any evidence to establish deliberate indifference. The undisputed evidence presented by Master Sergeant Earl established that he did not know that Allen posed a substantial risk of serious harm to Deal and that Allen was not listed on Deal’s “enemy list” before the attack. Earl also attested that he did not know that Allen had threatened Deal. In the absence of evidence to establish deliberate indifference, summary judgment was granted on Deal’s federal civil rights claim.