December 4, 2023

A federal appeals courtroom has dominated {that a} lawsuit filed by the widow of a San Quentin inmate who died of COVID-19 can transfer ahead.

The ruling by the ninth U.S. Circuit Court docket of Appeals in San Francisco on Tuesday reversed a decrease courtroom’s determination that might have prevented the swimsuit from continuing.

Jacqueline Hampton has sued the state, the California Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), San Quentin State Jail and a few jail officers for the dying of her husband, Michael Hampton.

In August, the ninth Circuit issued an analogous ruling in an attraction arising out of just about equivalent allegations. That swimsuit was introduced by the household of a San Quentin jail guard, Gilbert Polanco, who additionally died in the course of the coronavirus outbreak.

“Whether or not we’re speaking about jail guards or inmates, we’re speaking about human beings who had been affected in the identical method,” mentioned Michael Haddad, the legal professional representing each households. “The courts are actually saying that whenever you create such a lethal setting within the jail, it impacts all people.”

Todd Javernick, a CDCR spokesman, mentioned the division “doesn’t touch upon litigation.”

Michael Hampton, who was serving a three-strikes sentence for a housebreaking conviction associated to medicine, died on the jail on Sept. 25, 2020, after contracting COVID-19. Hampton had a number of well being circumstances that positioned him at excessive threat ought to he grow to be contaminated with COVID-19, together with weight problems, hypertension and pre-diabetes.

Hampton started experiencing signs in early June, quickly after 122 inmates from the California Establishment for Males, which had a extreme COVID-19 outbreak, had been moved to San Quentin. Hampton was positioned on a ventilator in early August.

The outbreak sparked by the switch resulted within the dying of 28 inmates and Polanco. Greater than 2,100 inmates and 270 employees members had been contaminated.

In her swimsuit, Hampton’s widow asserts that the jail’s failure to guard her husband from the outbreak violated his statutory rights and his rights below the Eighth Modification to the U.S. Structure, which prohibits “merciless and weird punishments.”

Jail officers claimed immunity below the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP). The legislation limits authorized legal responsibility for the administration of medical countermeasures throughout instances of disaster.

Congress handed the PREP Act in 2005 to encourage the event and deployment of medical countermeasures — resembling diagnostics, remedies and vaccines — by limiting authorized legal responsibility.

However Choose Michelle Friedland wrote in her determination that the query of whether or not defendants are immune below the PREP Act is dependent upon whether or not the plaintiff’s claims are for a loss brought on by a medical countermeasure.

On this occasion, Friedland mentioned, many of the males who had been transferred had not been examined for COVID-19 for greater than three weeks, and none was correctly screened for signs earlier than being packed onto buses to San Quentin in numbers far exceeding coronavirus-era capability limits that the CDCR had mandated for inmate security.

Friedland wrote that though some inmates exhibited signs whereas on the bus, the prisons division didn’t quarantine the newly arriving inmates. As a substitute, many of the transferred inmates had been moved right into a housing unit with grated doorways and allowed to make use of the identical showers and eat in the identical mess corridor as different inmates.

Friedland additionally wrote that two days after the switch, Marin County Public Well being Officer Matt Willis contacted the jail and really helpful that the transferred inmates be sequestered; that each one uncovered inmates and employees be required to put on masks; and that employees motion be restricted between completely different housing models to stop the unfold of COVID-19.

Jail officers instructed Willis he lacked the authority to mandate measures in a state jail.

In denying the jail officers’ declare of immunity, Friedland wrote, “The PREP Act gives immunity solely from claims that relate to ‘the administration to or the use by a person of’ a lined countermeasure — not such a measure’s non-administration or non-use.”