590 F.2d 105 (5th Cir. 1979), 76-4376, Fielder v. Bosshard

Docket Nº:76-4376.
Citation:590 F.2d 105
Party Name:Lonnie Elbert FIELDER et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. August H. BOSSHARD et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:February 21, 1979
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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590 F.2d 105 (5th Cir. 1979)

Lonnie Elbert FIELDER et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

August H. BOSSHARD et al., Defendants-Appellants.

No. 76-4376.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

February 21, 1979

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 107

Ed C. Small, Jr., C. C. Small, Jr., Austin, Tex., for defendants-appellants.

Waggoner Carr, Robert L. Crider, Austin, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for Western District of Texas.

Before INGRAHAM, GEE and FAY, Circuit Judges.

FAY, Circuit Judge:

Lonnie and Edna Fielder, father and mother of decedent Jimmie Fielder, brought this § 1983 1 action as next of kin against Sheriff August Bosshard, Chief Deputy Daniel Walker, Deputy William Chandler, and Jailer Robert Champion (hereinafter "the appellants"). The basis of the suit is the appellants' alleged violation of Jimmie Fielder's constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment while he was incarcerated in the Williamson County, Texas jail. A jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs against all of the defendants. Actual and punitive damages of $40,000 and $20,000 respectively were assessed against Sheriff Bosshard, and against Jailer Champion in the amounts of $10,000 and $9,000 respectively. Actual damages of $20,000 were charged against Deputy Walker. No damages were assessed against Deputy Chandler. The trial court denied the appellants' motions for summary judgment, directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict and new trial.

The appellants raise four points on appeal: 1) the evidence does not support the jury's finding of cruel and unusual punishment; 2) the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury with respect to the appellants' qualified immunity; 3) the plaintiffs failed to prove causation; and 4) the evidence does not support the jury's award of compensatory and punitive damages. We affirm.

I. SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

According to Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 97 S.Ct. 285, 50 L.Ed.2d 251 (1976), Remanded, 554 F.2d 653 (5th Cir. 1977), and this Circuit's interpretation of it, to prevail in a § 1983 suit based on cruel and unusual punishment a prisoner must prove that "the conduct in question runs counter to evolving standards of decency or involves the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain." Bass v. Sullivan, 550 F.2d 229, 230 (5th Cir. 1977) (interpreting Gamble ). At a minimum, the plaintiff must show that prison officials acted with a conscious or callous indifference to his serious medical needs. Id. Mere negligence, neglect or medical malpractice is insufficient.

Viewing the facts in the manner most favorable to the appellee, 2 we hold that the plaintiffs have proved their case. On July 2, 1976, Jimmie Fielder was arrested by appellants Walker and Chandler for failure to make child support payments. They were told that Fielder was sick and under medication. He was taken to the Williamson County Jail. Robert Champion, the jailer, was informed by Fielder's mother that Fielder was sick, that he had a virus and high blood pressure, and that he hadn't eaten. When told that Fielder hadn't eaten, Champion responded: "We feed them black coffee and biscuits." When Mrs. Fielder brought buttermilk and soda to the jail, Champion threw it in the cell "like he was feeding a bunch of hogs." Finally, Mrs. Fielder pointed out that her son needed attention and that it was very hot in the jail. Champion replied: "If you don't like the way I run this jail, you go to higher authorities." Although these comments and others to follow do not in themselves establish cruel and unusual punishment, they reflect the appellants' attitudes. When considered in conjunction with the

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events leading up to Jimmie Fielder's death, these statements tend to show that the appellants were not merely unmindful or negligent prison officials.

At noon on July 4, 1976, Fielder's behavior became bizarre. Fellow prisoners testified that he seemed physically sick and that he began to see things, such as the Lone Ranger. By sundown he was seeing Indians. He was physically shaking. He climbed the bars, saying that there was barbed wire on them and that he was cutting his hands. Fielder's condition worsened as the day progressed. At around dinner time, the prisoners called Jailer Champion. At the time Champion arrived, Fielder was jumping from the top bunk to the lower one on the other side. Fielder asked Champion for his pills. Champion replied that Fielder had already taken them. Fielder then requested a doctor. Champion refused. He said that Fielder was...

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