Court: US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
Opinion Date: July 21, 2021
Judge: Pamela Harris
Areas of Law: Civil Rights, Constitutional Law, Personal Injury
Plaintiff filed suit alleging that prison officials ignored his repeated medical complaints and denied him meaningful treatment, leading to his collapse and major surgery. Plaintiff alleged a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim against the United States for medical negligence, as well as a Bivens claim against certain individuals involved in his care for deliberate indifference in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
The Fourth Circuit concluded that the district court erroneously dismissed the FTCA claim because the plaintiff did not secure a certification from a medical expert before filing suit, as required by West Virginia law. As two of its sister circuits have concluded, state-law certification requirements like West Virginia’s are inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and thus displaced by those rules in federal court. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court’s dismissal of the FTCA claim.
The court vacated the district court’s grant of summary judgment to individual defendants on the plaintiff’s Bivens claims. The district court reasoned that plaintiff could not establish deliberate indifference as a matter of law. However, the court concluded that the district court did not first provide the plaintiff, who proceeded pro se, with proper notice of his obligation to support his claims or an opportunity to seek discovery. Accordingly, the court vacated this portion of the district court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings on the Bivens claims.
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