CACI 3040 Violation of Prisoner’s Federal Civil Rights—Eighth Amendment—Substantial Risk of Serious Harm (42 U.S.C. § 1983)

California Civil Jury Instructions CACI

3040 Violation of Prisoner’s Federal Civil Rights—Eighth Amendment—Substantial Risk of Serious Harm (42 U.S.C. § 1983)

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] subjected [him/her/nonbinary pronoun] to prison conditions that violated [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] constitutional rights. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1.That while imprisoned, [describe violation that created risk, e.g.[name of plaintiff] was placed in a cell block with rival gang members];

2.That [name of defendant]’s [conduct/failure to act] created a substantial risk of serious harm to [name of plaintiff]’s health or safety;

3.That [name of defendant] knew that [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] [conduct/failure to act] created a substantial risk of serious harm to [name of plaintiff]’s health or safety;

4.That [name of defendant] disregarded the risk by failing to take reasonable measures to address it;

5.That there was no reasonable justification for the [conduct/failure to act];

6.That [name of defendant] was performing [his/her/nonbinary pronoun] official duties when [he/she/nonbinary pronoun] [acted/purported to act/failed to act];

7.That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and

8.That [name of defendant]’s [conduct/failure to act] was a substantial factor in causing [name of plaintiff]’s harm.

Whether the risk was obvious is a factor that you may consider in determining whether [name of defendant] knew of the risk.

New September 2003; Revised December 2010, June 2011; Renumbered from CACI No. 3011 December 2012; Revised December 2014, June 2015, May 2017, May 2020

Crowdsource Lawyers

Directions for Use

Give this instruction in a case involving conduct that allegedly created a substantial risk of serious harm to an inmate. (See Farmer v. Brennan (1994) 511 U.S. 825 [114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811].) For an instruction on deprivation of medical care, see CACI No. 3041, Violation of Prisoner’s Federal Civil Rights—Eighth Amendment—Medical Care. For an instruction involving the deprivation of necessities, see CACI No. 3043, Violation of Prisoner’s Federal Civil Rights—Eight Amendment—Deprivation of Necessities.

In element 1, describe the act or omission that created the risk. In elements 2 and 3, choose “conduct” if the risk was created by affirmative action. Choose “failure to act” if the risk was created by an omission.

In prison-conditions cases, the inmate must show that the defendant was deliberately indifferent to the inmate’s health or safety. (Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at p. 834.) “Deliberate indifference” involves a two part inquiry. First, the inmate must show that the prison officials were aware of a “substantial risk of serious harm” to the inmate’s health or safety, but failed to act to address the danger. (See Castro v. County of L.A. (9th Cir. 2016) 833 F.3d 1060, 1073.) Second, the inmate must show that the prison officials had no “reasonable” justification for the conduct, in spite of that risk. (Thomas v. Ponder (9th Cir. 2010) 611 F.3d 1144, 1150.) Elements 3, 4, and 5 express the deliberate-indifference components.

The “official duties” referred to in element 6 must be duties created by any state, county, or municipal law, ordinance, or regulation. This aspect of color of law most likely will not be an issue for the jury, so it has been omitted to shorten the wording of element 6.

Sources and Authority

Civil Action for Deprivation of Rights. Title 42 United States Code section 1983.

“It is undisputed that the treatment a prisoner receives in prison and the conditions under which he is confined are subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment.” (Helling v. McKinney (1993) 509 U.S. 25, 31 [113 S.Ct. 2475, 125 L.Ed.2d 22].)

“Our cases have held that a prison official violates the Eighth Amendment only when two requirements are met. First, the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, ‘sufficiently serious.’ For a claim … based on a failure to prevent harm, the inmate must show that he is incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm. The second requirement follows from the principle that ‘only the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain implicates the Eighth Amendment.’ To violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, a prison official must have a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind.’ In prison-conditions cases that state of mind is one of ‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or safety … .” (Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at p. 834, internal citations omitted.)

“[D]irect causation by affirmative action is not necessary: ‘a prison official may be held liable under the Eighth Amendment if he knows that inmates face a substantial risk of serious harm and disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it.’ ” (Castro, supra, 833 F.3d at p. 1067, original italics.)

“Whether a prison official had the requisite knowledge of a substantial risk is a question of fact subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including inference from circumstantial evidence, and a factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was obvious.” (Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at p. 842, internal citation omitted.)

“When instructing juries in deliberate indifference cases with such issues of proof, courts should be careful to ensure that the requirement of subjective culpability is not lost. It is not enough merely to find that a reasonable person would have known, or that the defendant should have known, and juries should be instructed accordingly.” (Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at p. 843 fn. 8.)

“We hold … that a prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” (Farmer, supra, 511 U.S. at p. 837.)

“The precise role of legitimate penological interests is not entirely clear in the context of an Eighth Amendment challenge to conditions of confinement. The Supreme Court has written that the test of Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 107 S. Ct. 2254, 96 L. Ed. 2d 64 (1987), which requires only a reasonable relationship to a legitimate penological interest to justify prison regulations, does not apply to Eighth Amendment claims. … The existence of a legitimate penological justification has, however, been used in considering whether adverse treatment is sufficiently gratuitous to constitute punishment for Eighth Amendment purposes.” (Grenning v. Miller-Stout (9th Cir. 2014) 739 F.3d 1235, 1240.)

“We recognize that prison officials have a ‘better grasp’ of the policies required to operate a correctional facility than either judges or juries. For this reason, in … conditions of confinement cases, we instruct juries to defer to prison officials’ judgments in adopting and executing policies needed to preserve discipline and maintain security.” (Mendiola-Martinez v. Arpaio (9th Cir. 2016) 836 F.3d 1239, 1254, internal citation omitted.)

“However, our precedent should not be misread to suggest that jail officials are automatically entitled to deference instructions in conditions of confinement or excessive force cases brought by prisoners, or § 1983 actions brought by former inmates. We have long recognized that a jury need not defer to prison officials where the plaintiff produces substantial evidence showing that the jail’s policy or practice is an unnecessary, unjustified, or exaggerated response to the need for prison security.” (Shorter v. Baca (9th Cir. 2018) 895 F.3d 1176, 1183, internal citations omitted.)

“Although claims by pretrial detainees arise under the Fourteenth Amendment and claims by convicted prisoners arise under the Eighth Amendment, our cases do not distinguish among pretrial and postconviction detainees for purposes of the excessive force, conditions of confinement, and medical care deference instructions.” (Shorter, supra, 895 F.3d at p. 1182, fn. 4.)

“The Supreme Court has interpreted the phrase ‘under “color” of law’ to mean ‘under “pretense” of law.’ A police officer’s actions are under pretense of law only if they are ‘in some way “related to the performance of his official duties.” ’ By contrast, an officer who is ‘ “pursuing his own goals and is not in any way subject to control by [his public employer],” ’ does not act under color of law, unless he ‘purports or pretends’ to do so. Officers who engage in confrontations for personal reasons unrelated to law enforcement, and do not ‘purport[] or pretend[]’ to be officers, do not act under color of law.” (Huffman v. County of Los Angeles (9th Cir. 1998) 147 F.3d 1054, 1058, internal citations omitted.)

Secondary Sources

8 Witkin, Summary of California Law (11th ed. 2017) Constitutional Law, § 901
3 Civil Rights Actions, Ch. 11, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of State Law—Prisons, ¶¶ 11.02–11.03 (Matthew Bender)
11 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 114, Civil Rights: Prisoners’ Rights, § 114.28 (Matthew Bender)