Peralta v. Dillard

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 03-06-2014
  • Case #: 09-55907
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En Banc: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judges Silverman, Graber, Tallman, Rawlinson, Clifton, Bybee, M. Smith, Christensen, Nguyen and Hurwitz
  • Full Text Opinion

A prison official who is sued under § 1983 for money damages may raise a lack of available resources defense.

Upon arrival at a California State Prison in Los Angeles County, Cion Adonis Peralta requested dental care. He complained of having cavities that caused his teeth to hurt and his gums to bleed. After a couple of weeks without the requested dental care, Peralta filed a written appeal and he was then added to a waiting list for dental work. Peralta was eventually seen by a dentist who provided some Ibuprofen for his pain, but Peralta was dissatisfied with the work, and filed a second level appeal and later a lawsuit alleging deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. The lawsuit included the dentist who worked on Peralta, the prison’s Chief Dental Officer and the Chief Medical Officer. Peralta claimed that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated due to the prison officials’ deliberate indifference to his serious medical need. The district court granted directed verdicts for the Chief Dental Officer and Medical Officer, and the jury found for the dentist who saw Peralta. The Ninth Circuit held that a mere failure to provide a routine tooth cleaning does not create a serious medical need and the resources available to the dentists is highly relevant because they define the spectrum of choices that officials had at their disposal. Therefore, a prison official that is sued under § 1983 for money damages may raise a lack of available resources defense. The panel also held that a prison official is deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need if he “knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health.” The panel noted that Peralta must prove both (1) that the failure to follow procedure put inmates at risk and, (2) that the defendants “actually knew” that their actions put inmates at risk. AFFIRMED.

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