Hall v. Wooten, No. 73-2078

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, and EDWARDS and McCREE; McCREE
Citation506 F.2d 564
Docket NumberNo. 73-2078
Decision Date19 November 1974
PartiesMyrtle HALL, Administratrix of the Estate of Charles Edward Hall, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Honorable George WOOTEN, Judge, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

Page 564

506 F.2d 564
Myrtle HALL, Administratrix of the Estate of Charles Edward
Hall, Deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Honorable George WOOTEN, Judge, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 73-2078.
United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.
Nov. 19, 1974.

Page 565

Cline, McAfee, Adkins & Gillenwater, Carl E. McAfee, Donald E. Earls, Norton, Va., John N. Cornett, Whitesburg, Ky., for plaintiff-appellant.

Robert C. Muncy, Hyden, Ky., Grant F. Knuckles, Pineville, Ky., James S. Wilson, Pineville, Ky., for defendants-appellees.

Before PHILLIPS, Chief Judge, and EDWARDS and McCREE, Circuit Judges.

McCREE, Circuit Judge.

This appeal from the dismissal of a complaint requires us to determine whether, in Kentucky, a cause of action for deprivation of civil rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 survives the death of the person injured and may be brought by his legal representative. We conclude that the action does survive and reverse the judgment dismissing the case and remand for further proceedings.

This action arises from the brutal murder of Charles Edward Hall by his drunken fellow inmates while he was incarcerated in the Leslie County Jail in Kentucky on December 24, 1972. The complaint, filed by decedent's mother as administratrix of his estate, alleged that defendants, who in their several capacities are responsible for the supervision of the jail, wrongfully and willfully failed to maintain it in a condition of safety for its inmates, and that this

Page 566

breach of duty violated decedent's civil rights. Damages of $250,000 were prayed for.

The district court granted defendant's motions to dismiss on the ground that a cause of action based upon deprivation of personal rights under 42 U.S.C. 1983 may be maintained only by the injured person and does not survive his death. In making this determination, the district court relied upon the language of section 1983, which makes a person who violates the Act liable to the 'party injured,' 1 and upon the cases of Madison v. Wood, 410 F.2d 564 (6th Cir. 1969), Denman v. Wertz, 372 F.2d 135 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 389 U.S. 941, 88 S.Ct. 300, 19 L.Ed.2d 293 (1967), Nelson v. Knox, 230 F.2d 483 (6th Cir. 1956), Tyree v. Smith, 289 F.Supp. 174 (E.D.Tenn.1968), Krum v. Sheppard, 255 F.Supp. 994 (W.D.Mich.1966), aff'd, 407 F.2d 490 (6th Cir. 1967), and Mosher v. Beirne, 237 F.Supp. 684 (E.D.Mo.1964), aff'd, 357 F.2d 638 (8th Cir. 1966).

None of these cases compels the conclusion of the district court. Madison v. Wood and Krum v. Sheppard, insofar as they are relevant, hold only that a United States district court should apply the statute of limitations of the forum state in determining whether a complaint based on section 1983 has been timely filed. In Tyree v. Smith, in dismissing a complaint under section 1983, the court held that a father, not acting in his representative capacity, had no standing to sue for the deprivation of the civil rights of his child. Mosher v. Beirne, a zoning case challenging the validity of an ordinance, stands for the proposition that one may not sue for the deprivation of another's civil rights. Denman v. Wertz, involving a child custody dispute between parents, is concerned with the nature of the claimed deprivation and has no relevance to this case. In Nelson v. Knox, where in holding that a section 1983 action based upon injury to property survives the death of its owner, we said that civil rights actions for injury to the person would not survive. The statement was clearly obiter dictum.

Although section 1983 provides for liability to 'the party injured,' it does not foreclose survival of the action in behalf of the estate of the injured party. Instead, in the absence of a specific act of Congress, a United States district court, under 42 U.S.C. 1988, may refer to the law of the state in which it sits in order to determine whether an action under section 1983 for injury to the person survives.

Section 1988 provides in relevant part:

The jurisdiction in civil and criminal matters conferred on the district courts by the provisions of this chapter . . . for the protection of all persons in the United States in their civil rights, and for their vindication, shall be exercised and enforced in conformity with the laws of the United States, so far as such laws are suitable to carry the same into effect; but in all cases where they are not adapted to the object, or are deficient in the provisions necessary to furnish suitable remedies and punish offenses against law, the common law, as modified and changed by the constitution and statutes of the State wherein the court having jurisdiction of such civil or criminal cause is held, so far as the same is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States, shall be extended to and govern the said courts in the trial and disposition of the cause . . ..

In interpreting this statute, we consider its language and the construction

Page 567

given it by other federal courts. The language plainly grants to United States district courts the power to apply state statutes in the trial and disposition of cases within their jurisdiction when federal laws are not adapted to the protection and vindication of civil rights so long as the state law to be applied is not inconsistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States. Moreover, the majority of courts that have considered whether civil rights actions for injury to the person survive have concluded that they do by reference to the law of the forum state. E.g., Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 921, 82 S.Ct. 243, 7 L.Ed.2d 136 (1961), Perkins v. Rich, 289 F.2d 153 (8th Cir. 1961), Holmes v. Silver Cross Hospital of Joliet, Illinois, 340 F.Supp. 125 (N.D.Ill.1972), Galindo v. Brownell, 255 F.Supp. 930 (S.D.Cal.1966). See also, Davis v. Johnson, 138 F.Supp. 572 (N.D.Ill.1955), but see Landman v. Royster, 354 F.Supp. 1302 (E.D.Va.1973), where an action for injury to the person was brought against the estate of a...

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58 practice notes
  • Noone v. Town of Palmer, C.A. No. 12–CV–30206–MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 26, 2014
    ...determine whether an action under section 1983 (or sections 1985 and 1986) for injury to the person survives.”) (quoting Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564, 566 (6th Cir.1974)). Given all this, the court will move on to the comity and issue preclusion grounds which it believes do dispose of the e......
  • Jones v. McElroy, Civ. A. No. 76-1532
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 30, 1977
    ...to exercise it in favor of entertaining those claims. --------Notes: 1 See Spence v. Staras, 507 F.2d 554 (7th Cir. 1974); Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564 (6th Cir. 1974); Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 921, 82 S.Ct. 243, 7 L.Ed.2d 136 (1961); Pritchard v. S......
  • GRAHAM v. SEQUATCHIE County Gov't, Case No. 1:10-cv-20
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • April 4, 2011
    ...importation into federal law of state law causes of action); Williams, 258 Fed. Appx. at 823; Wilson, 477 F. 3d at 332; Hall v. Wooten, 506 F. 2d 564, 568 (6th Cir. 1974); Fowler, 2010 WL 723799, 97030, at * 11; Henderson, 2005 WL 1397030, at * 6. 42 U. S. C. § 1988 only speaks to suitable ......
  • American General Life and Acc. Ins. Co. v. Ward, Civil Action No. 1:05-CV-3320-JEC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • March 12, 2007
    ...for, but also does not foreclose, survival of a civil rights action. Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401, 407 (5th Cir.1961); Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564, 566 (6th Cir.1974). To determine whether an action survives, the Court must refer to the law of the state in which it sits. Brazier, 293 F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • Noone v. Town of Palmer, C.A. No. 12–CV–30206–MAP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
    • February 26, 2014
    ...determine whether an action under section 1983 (or sections 1985 and 1986) for injury to the person survives.”) (quoting Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564, 566 (6th Cir.1974)). Given all this, the court will move on to the comity and issue preclusion grounds which it believes do dispose of the e......
  • Jones v. McElroy, Civ. A. No. 76-1532
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • March 30, 1977
    ...to exercise it in favor of entertaining those claims. --------Notes: 1 See Spence v. Staras, 507 F.2d 554 (7th Cir. 1974); Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564 (6th Cir. 1974); Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 921, 82 S.Ct. 243, 7 L.Ed.2d 136 (1961); Pritchard v. S......
  • GRAHAM v. SEQUATCHIE County Gov't, Case No. 1:10-cv-20
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • April 4, 2011
    ...importation into federal law of state law causes of action); Williams, 258 Fed. Appx. at 823; Wilson, 477 F. 3d at 332; Hall v. Wooten, 506 F. 2d 564, 568 (6th Cir. 1974); Fowler, 2010 WL 723799, 97030, at * 11; Henderson, 2005 WL 1397030, at * 6. 42 U. S. C. § 1988 only speaks to suitable ......
  • American General Life and Acc. Ins. Co. v. Ward, Civil Action No. 1:05-CV-3320-JEC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • March 12, 2007
    ...for, but also does not foreclose, survival of a civil rights action. Brazier v. Cherry, 293 F.2d 401, 407 (5th Cir.1961); Hall v. Wooten, 506 F.2d 564, 566 (6th Cir.1974). To determine whether an action survives, the Court must refer to the law of the state in which it sits. Brazier, 293 F.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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