Daniels v. Williams

Decision Date24 August 1983
Docket NumberNo. 82-6538,82-6538
PartiesRoy E. DANIELS, Appellant, v. Andrew WILLIAMS, Deputy, Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Fourth Circuit

Louis James Licata, Third Year Law Student (Professor Stephen A. Saltzburg, University of Virginia Law School, Charlottesville, Va., on brief), for appellant.

Dennis A. Barbour, Roanoke, Va. (James W. Hopper, Gardner, Moss, Brown & Hopper, P.C., Roanoke, Va., on brief), for appellee.

Before HALL and SPROUSE, Circuit Judges, and TURK, * Chief Judge. **

TURK, Chief Judge:

Roy E. Daniels (Daniels), an inmate at the Richmond City Jail, brought this section 1983 action against Deputy-Sheriff Andrew Williams (Williams) alleging that he was injured when he slipped and fell on a pillow negligently left on the stairs by Williams. The district court granted Williams's motion for summary judgment, reasoning that under Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), Daniels's allegations failed to state a procedural due process claim because Virginia provided a meaningful postdeprivation remedy in the form of a common law negligence action. Daniels appeals on the grounds that Parratt's analysis concerning the adequacy of a postdeprivation remedy should not be applied to the deprivation of a nonproperty interest, and, even if it does apply, that the Virginia doctrine of sovereign immunity denies him an adequate postdeprivation remedy. We affirm the district court's dismissal of Daniels's action.


The plaintiff in Parratt alleged that he was deprived of property without due process of law when prison officials negligently lost his hobby kit. The Court agreed that the plaintiff had been deprived of property within the meaning of the fourteenth amendment. Id. at 536-537, 101 S.Ct. at 1913-1914. The Court held, however, that the plaintiff had not stated a claim for a violation of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Rejecting the proposition that due process always requires a hearing before the initial property deprivation, Justice Rehnquist stated in a plurality opinion that a meaningful postdeprivation hearing satisfies the requirements of procedural due process in situations where the property deprivation does not result from established state procedure and the state cannot practically provide a meaningful predeprivation hearing. Id. at 540-541, 101 S.Ct. at 1915-1916. Applying this principle to the plaintiff's allegation that he was tortiously deprived of his property as a result of a state employee's random and unauthorized act, the Court concluded that the plaintiff was not deprived of property without due process of law because the state's statutory tort procedure provided him with a postdeprivation remedy that satisfied the requirements of procedural due process. 1 Id. at 543-544, 101 S.Ct. at 1916-1917.

Like the plaintiff in Parratt, Daniels alleges that he was injured by the negligence of a state employee. Unlike in Parratt, Daniels's claim is for bodily injury rather than for the loss of personal property. "Liberty" within the meaning of the fourteenth amendment includes the right to be free from "unjustified intrusions on personal security." Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 673, 97 S.Ct. 1401, 1413, 51 L.Ed.2d 711 (1977). Bodily injury resulting from a state official's negligence therefore deprives a person of a liberty interest protected by the fourteenth amendment. 2 This case thus presents the question whether the Parratt analysis applies to nonproperty deprivations, such as a negligent deprivation of a liberty interest.

Parratt concerned a property interest; its scope, however, "cannot easily be limited to negligent deprivations of property." Palmer v. Hudson, 697 F.2d 1220, 1222 (4th Cir.1983), cert. granted, --- U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 3535, 77 L.Ed.2d 1386 (1983). Because Parratt's underlying principle is that a postdeprivation hearing will satisfy procedural due process when there is no practical way to provide a predeprivation hearing, logic dictates that Parratt should also apply to a nonproperty deprivation for which a predeprivation hearing was impractical. Justice Rehnquist made no distinction in Parratt between property and nonproperty deprivations. Rather, the relevant distinction is between isolated acts of misconduct which are not amenable to prior control and deprivations resulting from established state procedure; this factor determines whether a meaningful postdeprivation remedy will satisfy the requirements of procedural due process.

In addition, application of Parratt to nonproperty deprivations such as Daniels's alleged bodily injury is consistent with the Court's stated goal in Parratt to provide courts with assistance in determining "the correct manner in which to analyze claims ... which allege facts that are commonly thought to state a claim for a common-law tort normally dealt with by state courts, but instead are couched in terms of constitutional deprivation and relief is sought under Sec. 1983." Id. 451 U.S. at 533, 101 S.Ct. at 1912.

The conclusion that Parratt was intended to apply to all types of deprivations resulting from the unauthorized acts of state officials which are not amenable to prior review is further reinforced by the concurring opinion of Justice Powell. Justice Powell argued that the alleged negligent loss of the plaintiff's property by the state officials did not constitute a deprivation of property within the meaning of the fourteenth amendment. Id. at 546, 101 S.Ct. at 1918. And he criticized the Court's focus on the adequacy of the postdeprivation remedy because such would make the fourteenth amendment a font of tort law whenever a state failed to provide a remedy. Id. at 550, 101 S.Ct. at 1920. In so doing, however, he recognized that the Court's analysis applies to "negligent invasions of liberty or property interests." Id.

Moreover, Ingraham v. Wright, supra, is cited by the Court as being consistent with the approach taken in Parratt. 451 U.S. at 542 and 547, n. 1, 101 S.Ct. at 1916 and 1919, n. 1 (Powell, J., concurring in result). In Ingraham, the Court addressed the claim that corporal punishment in public schools violated due process. See 430 U.S. at 653, 97 S.Ct. at 1403. The Court held that corporal punishment in public schools did not deprive school children of liberty without due process of law because, among other things, "the traditional common-law remedies are fully adequate to afford due process." Id. at 672, 97 S.Ct. at 1413. Parratt's citation of Ingraham with approval is compelling evidence that the Court intended the Parratt analysis to apply to deprivations of liberty interests.

Not all the justices who joined in the Court's decision in Parratt believed that it applied to nonproperty deprivations. Justice Blackmun, with whom Justice White concurred, did "not read the Court's opinion as applicable to a case concerning deprivation of life or of liberty." 451 U.S. at 545, 101 S.Ct. at 1918. But Justices Blackmun and White offered no persuasive reason for their distinction between property and nonproperty deprivations. Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio, 431 U.S. 494, 97 S.Ct. 1932, 52 L.Ed.2d 531 (1977), cited as different yet analogous precedent supporting this distinction, concerned a substantive due process claim, see id. at 502-03, 97 S.Ct. at 1937-38, and thus is distinguishable from cases, such as this one, involving alleged procedural due process violations.

Although Daniels concedes that not every liberty deprivation by a state official should be redressed by an action under section 1983, he stresses that the state has an affirmative duty to protect inmates because of the high level of state control in the prison environment. And he argues that Parratt's analysis should not apply to this case because a section 1983 remedy is the only way to ensure the state's compliance with this duty. We believe, however, that the Virginia courts are no less diligent than the federal courts in protecting inmates from state inflicted harm. Moreover, there is nothing in Parratt which lends support to the proposition that its rationale applies differently to prisoners than to nonprisoners. Indeed, the fact that the plaintiff in Parratt was himself an inmate militates against the adoption of Daniels's proffered distinction.

Therefore, we hold that the Parratt analysis applies to deprivations of nonproperty interests which do not violate substantive constitutional rights, including negligent deprivations of the liberty interest in freedom from bodily injury. See Ellis v. Hamilton, 669 F.2d 510 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 488, 74 L.Ed.2d 631 (1982); Rutledge v. Arizona Board of Regents, 660 F.2d 1345 (9th Cir.1981), aff'd sub nom. Kush v. Rutledge, --- U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 1483, 75 L.Ed.2d 413 (1983). 3

Daniels alleges that Williams's negligence in leaving a pillow on the stairs deprived him of a liberty interest. There is no allegation that Daniels was injured as a result of some established state procedure. Nor was it possible for the state to provide a predeprivation hearing since the state could not predict when the alleged loss would occur. Consequently, Parratt applies to this case.


Having decided that Parratt applies to this case, we must next determine whether Daniels has been deprived of liberty without due process of law. This in turn requires an evaluation of whether Virginia law provides him with a meaningful postdeprivation remedy.

Virginia law provides Daniels with a common law action for negligence. 4 Nevertheless, Daniels strenuously argues that the Virginia doctrine of sovereign immunity denies him an adequate postdeprivation remedy. See Subica v. Hutton, No. 81-328-AM (E.D.Va. Nov. 17, 1982) (unpublished).

In his answer, Williams invoked the defense of sovereign immunity from liability for his alleged negligence. The Supreme Court of Virginia has "listed...

To continue reading

Request your trial
44 cases
  • Fuchilla v. Prockop
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of New Jersey
    • October 13, 1987
    ...property in the employment discrimination context and the court knows of none. In her Memorandum of Law, plaintiff cites Daniels v. Williams, 720 F.2d 792 (4th Cir.1983), which was affirmed by the Supreme Court subsequent to the briefing in this case. See 106 S.Ct. 662 (1986). Daniels, howe......
  • Ramos v. Gallo
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Massachusetts
    • October 24, 1984
    ...Haygood v. Younger, 718 F.2d 1472, 1478-81 (9th Cir.1983), reh'g en banc granted, 729 F.2d 613 (9th Cir.1984); Daniels v. Williams, 720 F.2d 792, 796 (4th Cir.1983) and to intentional deprivations of liberty. See, e.g., Ellis v. Hamilton, 669 F.2d 510, 515 (7th Cir.), cert. denied, 459 U.S.......
  • Thibodeaux v. Bordelon
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • August 16, 1984
    ...applicable to the states because of incorporation into the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment. Accord Daniels v. Williams, 4 Cir.1983, 720 F.2d 792, 796 n. 3; Wolf-Lillie v. Sonquist, 7 Cir.1983, 699 F.2d 864, 871-72; Palmer v. Hudson, 4 Cir.1983, 697 F.2d 1220, 1225, aff'd in p......
  • Davidson v. O'Lone
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit
    • December 27, 1984
    ...claim, including the defense of immunity, unless, of course, the state rule is in conflict with federal law." See Daniels v. Williams, 720 F.2d 792, 798 (4th Cir.1983). The implication of Davidson's procedural due process claim is almost unlimited. It would subject to procedural due process......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT