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Didonato v. Panatera

paramedic closing door

Court: US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Docket: 20-1692

Opinion Date: February 3, 2022

Judge: Scudder

Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Personal Injury

This case law update is brought to you by Freeway Law auto accident and personal injury lawyers in Orange County. The following is not one of our cases, but it is of some significance, and we thought we should share it with our readers for informational purposes. The information above is for informational purposes only and not to be construed as legal advice.

DiDonato fell and seriously injured her head in the bathroom of Panatera’s home Panatera, a Chicago paramedic, found DiDonato disoriented and badly bleeding but allegedly only rinsed the blood from DiDonato’s head, wrapped it in a towel, moved her to his bed, and sexually assaulted her. When DiDonato regained consciousness the next afternoon, Panatera drove her home. DiDonato went to an emergency room. She had sustained head trauma and a concussion.

DiDonato filed suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging that Panatera violated her due process rights by failing to provide medical care, with state law claims for assault, battery, and negligence. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of DiDonato’s section 1983 claim. DiDonato had to allege that a state actor failed to adhere to a duty to protect and care for a person with whom the state had a “special relationship.” States and municipalities are not in a “special relationship” with all residents and do not shoulder a constitutional duty to provide medical care to anyone needing help. There was no allegation that DiDonato was ever in the city’s care or custody. DiDonato also failed to plausibly allege that Panatera acted “under color of state law.” Section 1983 does not cover disputes between private citizens; an individual’s employment by the state does not render any and all action by that person state action. DiDonato’s need for help and medical care arose during entirely private interaction.

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