We’re trial lawyers. Our core competency – above everything else – is trying cases to juries. And we specialize in beating giants.
Minneapolis Prisoner Medical Rights Lawyer
Prisoners’ Rights Attorney in Minnesota Assists Inmates with Civil Rights Claims
Prisoners, inmates, and detainees in jail and prison have a right to adequate medical care when they are awaiting trial in the pretrial stage as well as when they are serving a jail or prison sentence. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives prisoners a right to adequate medical care, and many states also have specific laws in their constitutions that give prisoners a right to adequate medical care under state law. When a prisoner, inmate, or detainee has not been provided with adequate medical care and suffers an injury, that prisoner (or his or her family if the prisoner died as a result of the lack of medical care) may be able to file a claim for a constitutional violation. Generally speaking, in order to file a constitutional claim for inadequate medical care, the plaintiff must prove that the jail or prison showed “deliberate indifference toward the serious medical needs” of the prisoner.
What is the standard for deliberate medical indifference in jail?
It is important to understand that the standard of “deliberate indifference” is different from what a plaintiff needs to prove in a tort case based on a theory of negligence. To be clear, when a prisoner suffers harm due to inadequate medical care in a jail or prison, it may be possible to file a constitutional claim as well as a tort claim. The constitutional claim requires the plaintiff to prove deliberate indifference, while a tort claim typically only requires that the plaintiff prove negligence. The two standards are quite different, and we will explain in more detail how a “deliberate indifference” claim works.
Ultimately, if you have questions about filing a lawsuit for a prisoner injury resulting from the deliberate indifference to medical needs, you should speak with a Minnesota prisoners’ rights attorney for help.
Eighth Amendment Violations for Inadequate Medical Care Under the U.S. Constitution
To understand the standard of deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s medical needs, you need to know how the right to adequate medical care exists under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Estelle v. Gamble (1976), clarified that jails and prisons must provide adequate medical care to prisoners under the Eighth Amendment.
In that case, a prisoner was working in a textile mill on work assignment. A 600-pound bale of cotton fell on him, but he continued to perform the work assignment tasks for several hours. Later on, he asked to go to the hospital. He went to the hospital, was given a checkup for a hernia, and was then sent to his cell. After returning to his cell, the prisoner began to experience severe pain, and he returned to the hospital. A nurse provided him with pain medication, then a hospital doctor examined him and did not provide additional treatment. The prisoner continued to experience pain that prevented him from working, and the prison placed him in solitary confinement for refusing to work. In total, he was seen 17 times by medical personnel, yet he never received a back X-ray or treatment for his back injury.
In ruling on the case, the Supreme Court clarified that a failure to provide adequate medical care to prisoners can, in some circumstances, constitute cruel and unusual punishment, which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. However, the Court held that the particular prisoner’s case did not rise to the level of an Eighth Amendment violation because the negligent or inadvertent failure to provide adequate medical care does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In order for an Eighth Amendment violation to occur, jail or prison personnel must show “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.”
What is Deliberate Indifference to an Inmate’s Medical Needs?
After Estelle made clear that inadequate medical care only violates the Eighth Amendment when there is a “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs,” the U.S. Supreme Court explained what constitutes such deliberate indifference in a later case. In Farmer v. Brennan (1994), the Court ruled that prison officials can be liable for “deliberate indifference” as an Eighth Amendment violation if there is a substantial risk of serious harm to the prisoner, the prison official has subjective knowledge about the substantial risk of harm, and the prison official disregards it.
In Farmer, a transgender prisoner underwent estrogen therapy and sex reassignment surgery. The prisoner was kept separate from the general male population due in part to safety concerns for the prisoner. However, the prisoner was later transferred to a different prison and was placed in the general male population. In that prison, the prisoner was beaten and raped by a cellmate. The prisoner filed a claim alleging that the prison officials violated the prisoner’s Eighth Amendment rights by deliberately and indifferently failing to protect that prisoner. The key in such a case, according to the Court, is whether prison officials know about or have knowledge of risk to a prisoner and deliberately and indifferently disregard that risk.
Defining a “Serious Medical Need” in a Deliberate Indifference Case
If a plaintiff makes a deliberate indifference claim after suffering injuries due to inadequate medical care, that plaintiff needs to prove deliberate indifference to a serious medical need in order to have a valid Eighth Amendment claim. What constitutes a “serious medical need”? Various courts have considered this question. Some factors that courts consider in determining whether the prisoner had a serious medical need include the following:
- “Whether a reasonable doctor or patient would perceive the medical need in question as important and worthy of comment or treatment”;
- “Whether the medical condition significantly affects daily activities”; and
- “The existence of chronic and substantial pain.
In an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals case, the court looked to see whether a condition “has been diagnosed by a physician as mandating treatment or . . . is so obvious that even a lay person would easily recognize the necessity of a doctor’s attention.” The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has defined a serious medical need as a situation in which the “failure to treat a prisoner’s condition could result in further significant injury or the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain.”
A number of courts have made clear that a prisoner can experience a serious medical need even if the condition is not a life-threatening one. Moreover, a prisoner can also have a serious medical condition under the Eighth Amendment even if the failure to treat the condition does not result in it getting worse, but the condition causes severe pain. Some courts have even determined that the later stages of a prisoner’s pregnancy can constitute a serious medical need.
Ultimately, the specific definition of a “serious medical need” used by a court may depend upon the location of the court and any authoritative law from the federal appeals courts. If you have questions about whether you may have a valid claim under the Eighth Amendment for cruel and unusual punishment due to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, you should discuss the specific facts of your case with a prisoners’ rights attorney who has experiencing bringing similar constitutional law claims.
Key Information about a Deliberate Indifference Case
In sum, in order to bring a claim for a jail or prison’s deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, a plaintiff will need to be able to show the following:
- Prisoner had a serious medical need;
- Jail or prison personnel showed deliberate indifference to that serious medical need by recognizing the risk associated with the medical need and failing to seek or allow adequate medical care or treatment for the prisoner.
Accordingly, if you are wondering whether you have a claim, you should consider some of the following questions:
- Did the condition meet any of the likely definitions of a serious medical condition?
- What makes the medical condition serious?
- Did the jail or prison personnel understand that the medical condition was serious?
- If the jail or prison personnel understood that the prisoner faced a serious risk of harm as a result of the medical condition, did the jail or prison personnel disregard that risk?
It is important to remember that, even if you cannot bring a claim for an Eighth Amendment violation, it may still be possible to file a negligence claim under state law. A prisoner who suffers harm due to inadequate medical care may still be able to file a personal injury lawsuit under a theory of negligence if the jail or prison did not provide adequate medical care. With a negligence claim, the prisoner (or the prisoner’s family, if the prisoner died as a result of inadequate medical care) will not need to prove that the jail or prison personnel knew about the risk and intentionally disregarded it. Rather, the prisoner will need to show that the jail or prison was negligent in the medical care it provided or omitted. In many cases, understaffing at a jail or prison can lead to a successful negligence lawsuit.
Contact a Civil Rights Attorney Representing Injured Prisoners
THE MADIA LAW WAY
We have a process that works in getting exceptional results for our clients.
We are trial lawyers who prepare every case for trial from Day 1. Investigation and legal research are the first things we do, and we spend a lot of time on them. Because we haven’t filed the case yet, we have complete control – the defendant has no say and we want to use this time wisely. We interview witnesses that can help us prove the case. We’ll ask you for all relevant documents in your possession and review those carefully as well. We also will spend some time conducting legal research about unique issues in the case. We pull the jury instructions that the judge will ultimately charge the jury with after closing arguments at trial.
Our next step is typically to send a demand letter to the defendant. In the letter, we thoroughly lay out: the facts surrounding the defendant’s misconduct; the applicable law (including statutory and case citations) that make clear that the defendant broke the law; an analysis of your damages and the defendant’s monetary exposure; a demand for a monetary amount to settle the claim; and an instruction to preserve all relevant evidence, including electronic evidence. The point of this letter is to give the defendant a chance to do the right thing and pay a fair amount before litigation, and to give the defendant an opportunity to present any defenses or evidence it wants us to consider before moving forward. Sometimes we skip the demand letter if there are strategic reasons to move straight to filing, but we typically give defendants a chance to do the right thing.
If early negotiations fail, great – we file a Complaint and serve the defendant with it. A Complaint is a legal document that states the facts of what happened and alleges how the defendant broke the law. It formally starts the lawsuit. Many lawyers draft complaints in a general and relatively vague way, just to get it done and filed – because that’s all that’s really required. We take a different view. We view the Complaint as our first chance to tell your story to the judge, and we take it seriously. So we draft detailed complaints and include legal citations to statutory and judicial authority on unique points. Sometimes we’ll include a number of exhibits, diagrams, or other demonstrative aids to help the Court understand our claims. A secondary benefit of this approach is that defense lawyers reading the Complaint can become educated on the problems of their case and the state of the law – sometimes this leads them to reach out to us shortly after service of the Complaint to re-initiate settlement negotiations. Of course, by that time, the price for settlement has gone up.
Some lawyers view written discovery as a necessary evil – something to get done and out of the way before depositions. Not us. Written discovery is a gift and an opportunity. We spend a great deal of time crafting requests for documents and interrogatories (questions for the defendant to answer in writing) that are specific, detailed, and tailored to get what we need to prove our case. Many lawyers – even great ones – think written discovery is a waste of time because defense lawyers typically answer them on behalf of their clients and can try to stonewall with legalese and objections. We view this as a wonderful opportunity. In our experience, most defense lawyers can’t help themselves when answering discovery: they over-state their defenses and make assertions that their clients will not be able to support in testimony. So we get to commit the defendant to defenses that they can’t back up, leading to contradictions, confusion, and chaos in their depositions later on. We also use Requests for Admission – which many lawyers don’t. The Federal Rules and Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure allow us to ask defendants to “admit” certain facts. We send them RFAs that are very difficult for them to deny. Of course, they do it anyway, but that sets them up later for cost and fee-shifting, which the Rules mandate for defendants that deny RFAs that are later proven true. And usually, we can get the defendants’ own witnesses to admit facts that their defense lawyers denied in RFA. That’s a great situation that leads to more chaos and confusion on the defense side.
One last point on written discovery – we send multiple waves of it throughout discovery. We typically send 3 or 4 sets of written discovery requests to defendants throughout discovery. This compounds the problems for them, because the defense lawyers continue to overstate their defenses, but now run into contradictions from not just the defendant witnesses’ deposition testimony, but also their own previous discovery responses. This makes for a great record that we can present to the judge at dispositive motions, and use for impeachment at trial.
This is our chance to question relevant witnesses, on the record with a court reporter (we typically videotape important depositions as well). We get to confront the defense witnesses with all of the evidence we’ve developed through written discovery and document production. By this time, the defendant put its witnesses in an impossible position through its written defenses, which are often untrue and indefensible. So the witness has to either lie to support the defense, or admit it’s not true. That’s a dilemma that works for our clients either way, no matter which option the witness takes. We use depositions to expose contradictions, create a record for dispositive motions, lock witnesses into their stories so that we can impeach them later at trial, and sometimes, to show defense lawyers how hopeless their case is. We often calls from defense counsel shortly after depositions of their clients, seeking to re-start settlement negotiations.
The defendant will usually make a motion for summary judgment after discovery, asking the Court to throw out the case without having a jury trial. Because we’ve hit discovery so hard – both through written discovery and depositions – this is a tough motion for defense counsel to write in our cases. We draft our response for the Court and now get to bring everything together: the admissions, contradictions, nonsense, and obvious fact disputes that we’ve uncovered through discovery. We tell a compelling story that wraps everything together for the Court and makes clear that the defense motion has to be denied, and the defendant needs to face a jury for its conduct.
Sometimes, we’ll even make an affirmative motion for summary judgment, asking the Court to grant judgment in favor of our client without a trial. These motions are generally rare for plaintiffs to make, because the defendant can usually point to some fact dispute on its intent or some other factor that necessitates a trial. But we make affirmative summary judgment motions significantly more than is typical for plaintiffs, and that’s because the work we put in during discovery helps build a fantastic record to do so.
After the Court denies the defense motion for summary judgment, the defendant has only 2 options: 1) do the right thing and pay you a fair amount to our client to settle your claim (usually much, much more at this point than the defendant could have paid at the beginning of the case to settle); or 2) face a jury for its conduct and risk an enormous verdict. This is the dilemma that we have been creating and forcing the defendant into for the entire case. We’ll engage in settlement negotiations at this point from a position of extreme strength, mainly because most defendants are (rightly) terrified of facing a jury to defend their conduct.
This is, candidly, our favorite part of the case – why we went to law school: to hold the powerful accountable before juries. We prepare heavily for trial, including: detailed witness preparation, focus groups, and mock trials. At this point, the potential outcomes and consequences for the defendant are much more severe than if it simply did the right thing at the beginning of the case and paid a fair amount to compensate our client for its misconduct. As we advocate to the jury for our client, we’re also mindful of protecting the record so that defendants will be unsuccessful in attacking the verdict in post-trial motions or appeal.
What Our Clients Say
Madia Law delivers!
Competence, I demand competence. Ashwin and Zane digested all the elements of my case, a complex case with a plethora of moving parts yet distilled it down to its essence. Don't be a victim, stand strong, keep your nose clean and give Sara a call at Madia Law.
If you’re reading this, it’s awful that you are in a position right now where you are online searching for an attorney. I searched online as you are perhaps doing now, read some reviews and settled on an attorney after doing some research. I’ll never forget how blown away I was after my first meeting with Ashwin Madia. I was fortunate to have this man represent me. . I am eternally grateful.
No need to search any longer. You’ve found the right lawyer.
I was referred to Ashwin Madia when it became evident that my case was going to jury trial. He is definitely an expert as a trial lawyer. I found him to be very straightforward, no nonsense, a clear communicator, and I was pleased with the outcome he brought at trial. I would recommend him, and I would go to him again to represent me if the need ever arises.
I would encourage you to spend some time reading Mr. Madia's impressive bio. If that doesn't have you convinced, I will tell you that as someone who spent over 19 years in law enforcement, I have never seen a better trial lawyer than Ashwin. His passion, expertise, ethical commitment, and his incredible memory of the facts, were some of the major reasons I prevailed in my discrimination lawsuit against my employer.Thanks again!
I was referred to Ashwin Madia by a friend, who is also a lawyer. Mr. Madia and his partners dove into my case and prepared for trial in three weeks. Madia Law Firm markets itself as a "trial" driven law firm, and it did not disappoint. Mr. Madia overwhelmed opposing counsel, and after 5 days of trial, the jury ruled in my favor.
My wife, who has been a trial attorney for over 20 years, described Madia's trial work as "amazing," and described his closing argument as one of the best she had ever seen. I highly recommend Madia Law.
I have the utmost respect for Ashwin Madia. Ashwin is professional, knowledgeable, sharp, and genuine. After three years of litigating against my employer, I found myself financially and emotionally drained.
I was ready to give up.
Just five weeks before trial, Ashwin agreed to take on my case and did an amazing and spectacular job at trial! We won! I am so thankful there are people like Ashwin in this world. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
After being referred to Ashwin Madia I wasn't sure what to expect. Many times in the past I felt unsure of myself. I knew I wanted justice but many times in the past I've had to just walk away. This time was different; if you have the opportunity to get Ashwin Madia to represent you, I know you will have the ammunition you need to defeat your opposition to get the justice your seeking.
This is a spectacular attorney with the understanding of the rights and feelings of others, with the willingness to protect and stand up for those that may not have a voice. I thank you so much Mr. Madia.
Joshua Newville is a brilliant and tenacious attorney. When I met with him, I was close to giving up hope that I would find a solution with my employer, which is a large company with a General Counsel. Josh said he'd take on my case. He then got my employer to agree to mediation, an avenue it had previously refused while it engaged in delaying tactics for years. The fact that Josh brought them to the table was a feat in and of itself. Josh, along with lawyers from Gender Justice, fought to obtain an equitable settlement and to ensure that the issues of wrong-doing were addressed through policy changes within the company. I am incredibly grateful to have had Josh advocate for me. He is skilled, determined, and motivated to get justice for his clients.
I would highly recommend Madia Law. My experience with attorney Joshua Newville and legal assistant Sara Ion exceeded my expectations! I had a need for employment-related legal experts, and I explored three other firms before an attorney friend recommended Madia Law. My initial consultation with Joshua was superb, and throughout the entire process I felt heard and understood. My one regret was not contacting them sooner, as one important deadline had passed. Despite that, our result was far better -- and quicker -- than any of us expected. Thank you Joshua, Sara and Madia Law!
Aswhin is an incredible trial lawyer. When we realized that a claim against our business was definitely going to a jury trial in federal court we switched counsel to Ashwin and his team. At the 11th hour they got spun up on the facts and the law (intellectual property) and delivered an amazing performance against a huge "downtown" law firm. From the beginning of his opening statement it was clear that we made the right choice.
I can't recommend Madia Law highly enough.
I worked with Madia Law for three years on multiple, complex cases. A challenging and emotional situation was handled with professionalism, tenacity and frequent communication by Mr. Newville. I can't speak highly enough about Mr. Newville's ability to quickly understand complex technical issues and synthesize them into strong arguments. I would not hesitate to contact Madia Law in the future should the need arise!
If I could give Joshua Newville with Madia Law 10 stars I would! Josh explained exactly WHAT he intended to do, and the outcome he hoped could be achieved as well as each scenario in between.
Honestly I thought it all sounded too good to be true.
Josh approached the other party in my case with civility and solutions versus aggression and hostility. I feel confident this influenced the other party’s willingness to work for a mutually agreeable solution. If you need someone to fight for your best interest in a work situation, you won't find ANYONE who will do a better job!
Joshua Newville is a bright star to watch. During the handling of our case, he was thorough and highly competent. We were extremely satisfied with the outcome of Josh’s hard work on our behalf. Josh was excellent in communicating information and always promptly responded to correspondence we initiated. Josh had an exceptional grasp of the complexities involved in our case and was current on evolving national rulings/events and resulting implications for our situation. I highly recommend Madia Law.
Ash is an amazing Lawyer! He gave us great advice but still made sure the decision at the end was ours. He was willing to fight for us and did a wonderful job. I could not be more pleased with the outcome and I recommend him highly to anyone in the need of a lawyer. Ash was so smart and did such a great job of helping us understand the process and make sense of it all. He is not only extremely good at his job but he is also a great person. He lets his guard down and by the end of the process he felt more like a friend who was fighting for what was right! I can not say enough good things about him!
Attorney Zane Umstead recently represented my family's interest in a difficult legal situation. He was quite effective and direct in dealing with the opposing party; yet to us he was very kind, thoughtful and courteous. He even generously offered to waive his entire legal fee after spending a generous amount of his time working hard on the case, if we elected not to bring the conflict to a conclusion. His integrity is exemplary and he makes his profession respectable. We highly recommend Attorney Umstead with great enthusiasm.
What can I say about Madia Law, working with Zane and Cody was a privilege, working with Ashwin was a honor. This firm shows great appreciation and care to their clients. I wish nothing but success to all of them.
The future of Madia law is bright and prosperous.
Thank you again for believing in me and showing the little guy counts.