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Dallas County v. Duvall

Date Of Involvement: 06/17/2011
Docket: 10-1468


The plaintiff in this case contracted MRSA, a staph infection resistant to most antibiotics, while being held as a pretrial detainee in the Dallas County Jail. He spent thirty days in an ICU, underwent surgery, and was left permanently blind in one eye. It was later established at trial that the jail had a “bizarrely high” incidence of MRSA, ten to twenty times higher than comparable jails. Although controlling the MRSA problem through improved hygiene practices was entirely feasible, and although Dallas County had been aware of the problem and the means required to solve it for several years, “the County was not willing to take the necessary steps or spend the money to do so.”

Duvall filed a civil rights action against Dallas County, alleging that his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights were violated by unconstitutional conditions of confinement. The case proceeded to trial, where Duvall prevailed before a federal jury. After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, Dallas County asked the Supreme Court to reverse this decision, arguing that the Fifth Circuit allows pretrial detainees to recover on conditions-of-confinement claims under a more lenient standard than other circuits, which require a showing of “deliberate indifference” on the part of the government. Public Citizen worked with Duvall’s attorney on the brief in opposition. Among other points, the brief demonstrates that the question Dallas County presents to the Supreme Court is irrelevant to the disposition of this case because the jury found, and the Fifth Circuit affirmed, that the County acted with “deliberate indifference” when it made the decisions that led to Duvall’s injuries. The Supreme Court denied cert.