Deliberate Indifference Law & Legal Definition


Deliberate indifference is the conscious or reckless disregard of the consequences of one's acts or omissions. It entails something more than negligence, but is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result. In law, the courts apply the deliberate indifference standard to determine if a professional has violated an inmate’s civil rights. Deliberate indifference occurs when a professional knows of and disregards an excessive risk to an inmate’s health or safety. Even though it is difficult to identify what does and does not constitute deliberate indifference, courts have recognized several factual scenarios where deliberate indifference exists. For example, intentionally refusing to respond to an inmate’s complaints has been acknowledged as constituting deliberate indifference. [Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1366 (7th Cir. Ill. 1997)]; Intentionally delaying medical care for a known injury (i.e. a broken wrist) has been held to constitute deliberate indifference. [Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (U.S. 1994).]

The following are examples of case law discussing deliberate indifference

Prison employees who act with deliberate indifference to the inmates' safety violate the Eighth Amendment. But to be guilty of "deliberate indifference" they must know they are creating a substantial risk of bodily harm. If they place a prisoner in a cell that has a cobra, but they do not know that there is a cobra there (or even that there is a high probability that there is a cobra there), they are not guilty of deliberate indifference even if they should have known about the risk, that is, even if they were negligent--even grossly negligent or even reckless in the tort sense--in failing to know. But if they know that there is a cobra there or at least that there is a high probability of a cobra there, and do nothing, that is deliberate indifference.[Billman v. Indiana Dep't of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. Ind. 1995)]

Deliberate indifference is defined as “a failure to act where prison officials have knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm to inmate health or safety.” Crayton v. Quarterman, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103709 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 14, 2009)

Deliberate indifference is defined as requiring (1) an "awareness of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists" and (2) the actual "drawing of the inference." Elliott v. Jones, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 91125 (N.D. Fla. Sept. 1, 2009)