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Civil Rights: Immunity Qualified Immunity Suicide Screening

July 2nd, 2015 by Rieders Travis in Constitutional Law

Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015).  Christopher Barkes, a troubled man, was arrested for violating his probation.  He was taken to a correctional institution.  He had a medical evaluation to assess whether he was suicidal.  He did disclose certain risks.  He had a routine referral to mental health services.  While he was in a cell by himself, he hung himself with a sheet.  The court found qualified immunity applied.  This case came up from the Third Circuit.  No decision of the Supreme Court establishes a right to proper implementation of adequate suicide prevention protocols.  No decision of the court even discusses suitable screening or prevention protocols.  The Third Circuit found this right clearly established by two of its own decisions, both stemming from the same case.  Even if the institution suicide screening and prevention measures contain the shortcomings alleged, no precedent on the books at the time of the hanging in this case would have made it clear to prison officials that they were overseeing a system that violated the Constitution.  At the very least, the prison officials were not contravening clearly established law.  They are entitled to qualified immunity.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]

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