255 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2001), 00-1822, Mays v. Rhodes

Docket Nº:00-1822
Citation:255 F.3d 644
Party Name:LINDA MAYS, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF STEVEN ANTHONY MAYS, DECEASED, APPELLEE, v. H. G. RHODES, MAJOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; LARRY A. TEAL, FIELD LT., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; J. ANDREWS, SERGEANT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKA
Case Date:June 29, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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Page 644

255 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2001)

LINDA MAYS, PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF STEVEN ANTHONY MAYS, DECEASED, APPELLEE,

v.

H. G. RHODES, MAJOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; LARRY A. TEAL, FIELD LT., INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; J. ANDREWS, SERGEANT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS EMPLOYEE OF THE ARKANSAS DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, APPELLANTS.

No. 00-1822

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 29, 2001

Submitted: January 10, 2001

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Before Richard S. Arnold and Bowman, Circuit Judges, and Kyle, 1 District Judge.

Bowman, Circuit Judge

In early November 1996, Steven Mays became an inmate at the East Arkansas Regional Unit. On November 6, he began his first day of work on a hoe squad under the supervision of Sergeant Jeremy Andrews. Steven completed the morning session, took a lunch break, and returned to work for the afternoon session. At mid-afternoon, with the temperature reaching only seventy-two degrees, Steven collapsed. Andrews called for assistance. Lieutenant Larry Teal responded and after investigating Steven's condition called Major Harry Rhodes, who transported Steven to the prison infirmary. After initial treatment and diagnosis, infirmary personnel transferred Steven to a hospital. He never regained consciousness and died later the next day, his death apparently resulting from heat exhaustion.

Linda Mays, the decedent's mother, initiated a § 1983 suit as the personal representative of Steven's estate. She alleged that Rhodes, Teal, and Andrews 2 violated Steven's Eighth Amendment rights by requiring him to continue working after he exhibited signs of heat exhaustion and by delaying medical treatment after he collapsed. The officers argued that qualified immunity shielded them from suit and moved for summary judgment. The District Court denied the officers' claim of qualified immunity, and they appeal. We reverse.

I.

We first consider Linda Mays's argument that we lack jurisdiction to hear this interlocutory appeal. Although the denial of summary judgment generally does not create the finality required for appellate jurisdiction, the Supreme Court has repeatedly instructed that "a district court's denial of a claim of qualified immunity, to the extent that it turns on an issue of law, is an appealable 'final decision' within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1291 notwithstanding the absence of a final judgment." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985); accord Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 306 (1996); Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 311 (1995). In adjudicating the officers' claim of qualified immunity in this case, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to Mays, and our decision turns on whether, so viewed, the officers as a matter of law are entitled to qualified immunity. We have jurisdiction to hear this appeal. See McCaslin v. Wilkins, 183 F.3d 775, 778 (8th Cir. 1999); Collins v. Bellinghausen, 153 F.3d 591, 595 (8th Cir. 1998).

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II.

Qualified immunity generally shields public officials performing discretionary functions from civil liability if "their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). We perform a three-part inquiry in order to determine whether a plaintiff's lawsuit can proceed against a defendant public official despite his assertion of qualified immunity at the summary-judgment stage. Hunter v. Namanny, 219 F.3d 825, 829 (8th Cir. 2000); Habiger v. City of Fargo, 80 F.3d 289, 295 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 1011 (1996). First, the plaintiff must assert a violation of a constitutional or statutory right. Hunter, 219 F.3d at 829. Second, the right allegedly violated must be clearly established. Id. Third, the record, viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, must show genuine issues of material fact as to whether a reasonable official would have known that his course of conduct violated that right. Id. Only after a court determines that each requirement has been satisfied may an official be denied qualified immunity when he seeks summary judgment on that ground.

A.

Because the qualified-immunity question in this case arises at the summary- judgment stage, we "must take as true those facts asserted by [the] plaintiff that are properly supported in the record." Tlamka v. Serrell, 244 F.3d 628, 632 (8th Cir. 2001); see also Behrens, 516 U.S. at 309 ("On summary judgment . . . the plaintiff can no longer rest on the pleadings and the court looks to the evidence before it (in the light most favorable to the plaintiff) when conducting the Harlow [qualified immunity] inquiry.") (citation omitted).

The record shows that prior to Steven's collapse, James Mays, Steven's brother who was also incarcerated at the same prison, spoke to Steven during their lunch break. In deposition testimony, James stated that Steven told him that during the morning work session he had been hit in the head with a hoe and had been falling down, but after going to the infirmary he was told that nothing was wrong with him. James Mays's testimony does not provide any indication that Steven complained about any other physical troubles. The record also includes the deposition testimony of Dr. J. R. Barber who examined Steven's medical files and concluded that he likely had to have been "worked to death" in order to have died from heat stroke in seventy-two degree weather. Barber further stated that possible signs of heat stroke include fainting, thirst, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and headaches, but admitted that he had no way of knowing if any such signs were displayed by Steven.

The record reveals that although Steven was overweight at two hundred eighty pounds and six feet tall, he had been medically cleared, without restriction, for work detail....

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