WPI 340.02 Civil Rights—Individual Defendant—Burden of Proof on the Issues
6A WAPRAC WPI 340.02Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 340.02 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Part XVII. Civil Rights
Chapter 340. Civil Rights—General Introductory Instructions
WPI 340.02 Civil Rights—Individual Defendant—Burden of Proof on the Issues
[On [his] [her] [its] Section 1983 claims,](name of plaintiff)has the burden of proving each of the following propositions:
(1) That at the time of the incident,(name of defendant)was acting under color of law;
(2) That(name of defendant) (insert the mens rea that applies under the specific constitutional or statutory analysis)[did] [or] [did not do] certain acts;
(3) That the [acts] [or] [omissions] of(name of defendant)[subjected(name of plaintiff)] [caused(name of plaintiff)to be subjected] to the deprivation of rights protected by the Constitution or the laws of the United States; and
(4) That(name of defendant's)actions [proximately] caused injury or damage to(name of plaintiff).
If you find from your consideration of all of the evidence that each of these propositions has been proved, your verdict should be for(name of plaintiff)[on this claim]. On the other hand, if any of these propositions have not been proved, your verdict should be for(name of defendant)[on this claim].
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction with WPI 21.01 (Meaning of Burden of Proof—Preponderance of Evidence).
The specific federal constitutional or statutory right at issue should be inserted in paragraph (3). See the Comment to WPI 340.01 (Claims Instruction for Section 1983 Cases).
This instruction sets out the basic format for a claim under Section 1983. Specific types of constitutional violation may require other elements of proof; examples are provided in the Comments and pattern instructions in WPI Chapter 340 and other WPI chapters on civil rights.
Regarding the bracketed word “proximately,” see the detailed discussion of causation issues found in WPI 340.06 (Civil Rights—Causation—Comment Only). Instructions on causation must be carefully tailored to the specific case. See also WPI 340.04 (Civil Rights—“Subjects” and “Causes to be Subjected”—Definition), WPI 343.02 (Conditions of Confinement—Eighth Amendment—Deliberate Indifference—General Conditions of Confinement), and WPI 343.04, (Conditions of Confinement—Eighth Amendment—Deliberate Indifference—Medical), and the Notes on Use and Comments to these instructions.
In paragraph (2), fill in the applicable mens rea requirement. For some cases, the requirement is deliberate indifference, rather than intentionality.
Use this instruction with appropriate instructions from WPI Chapter 348 (Civil Rights—Damages and Verdict Forms). Use the last paragraph of this instruction with a general verdict form, or omit the last paragraph and use this instruction with an appropriate special verdict form, such as WPI 348.10 (Civil Rights—Fourth Amendment—Unreasonable Force—No Punitive Damages—Individual Defendant—Special Verdict Form).
Use the bracketed phrases referring to the Section 1983 claim in the first and last paragraphs if the civil rights claim is combined with other claims.
The instruction is modified from a pattern instruction used by the Ninth Circuit. See Ninth Cir. Civ. Jury Instr. 9.3 (2007); see also Third Cir. Civ. Jury Instr. 4.3 (2016).
Elements. The essential elements of a Section 1983 cause of action have been variously phrased, but are well established. “There are only two essential elements in a [Section] 1983 action: (1) the plaintiff must show that some person deprived it of a federal constitutional or statutory right, and (2) that person must have been acting under color of state law.” Sintra v. City of Seattle, 119 Wn.2d 1, 11, 829 P.2d 765 (1992). See also Thomas v. Carpenter, 881 F.2d 828 (9th Cir. 1989); Robinson v. City of Seattle, 119 Wn.2d 34, 58, 830 P.2d 318 (1992); Torrey v. City of Tukwila, 76 Wn.App. 32, 37, 882 P.2d 799 (1994).
Mens rea. While an action under 42 U.S.C § 1983 does not require a showing that an individual defendant acted with any “specific intent” to deprive the claimant of constitutional right, the claim still requires that the plaintiff prove that the defendant acted with a particular mens rea as part of the proof necessary to show violation of a constitutional right. See, e.g., Bryan County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 405, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997) (municipal liability; deliberate indifference standard for failure to properly screen job applicants); Bryan v. Jones, 530 F.2d 1210 (5th Cir. 1976) (for claims of false arrest or false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment, the plaintiff must prove an intent to commit an act that resulted in the arrest or imprisonment). Neither recklessness nor gross negligence are sufficient to establish a Section 1983 claim against an individual defendant. L.W. v. Grubbs, 92 F.3d 894 (9th Cir. 1996); see also Uhlrig v. Harder, 64 F.3d 567 (10th Cir. 1995) (suggesting recklessness with deliberate indifference would suffice).
The statutory language of Section 1983 provides that a person may either “subject” another to a deprivation of a federal right or “cause [them] to be subjected” to such a deprivation. See Johnson v. Duffy, 588 F.2d 740, 743–44 (9th Cir. 1978), and the Comment to WPI 340.04 (Civil Rights—“Subjects” and “Causes to be Subjected”—Definition).
Damages are not an essential element of the plaintiff's cause of action. See, e.g., George v. City of Long Beach, 973 F.2d 706 (9th Cir. 1992) (nominal damages awarded for constitutional violation when jury found injuries to plaintiff were not proximately caused by illegal entry). With regard to some specific types of constitutional rights, however, the plaintiff may be required to show a specified injury in order to demonstrate the deprivation. See, e.g., Venegas v. Wagner, 831 F.2d 1514 (9th Cir. 1987) (denial of right to fair trial requires proof that conduct of defendant proximately caused conviction and resulting damages). See WPI 340.04 (Civil Rights—“Subjects” and “Causes to be Subjected”—Definition) and WPI 340.06 (Civil Rights—Causation—Comment Only) for further discussion of causation.
There are also special requirements for showing other particular types of constitutional deprivation. Establishing a cause of action under Section 1983 for violation of a right to procedural due process, for example, requires proof of the following elements: (1) a liberty or property interest protected by the Constitution; (2) deprivation of the interest by the government; and (3) lack of due process. Portman v. County of Santa Clara, 995 F.2d 898 (9th Cir. 1993) (analysis of interest in employment). See also Meyer v. Univ. of Wash., 105 Wn.2d 847, 719 P.2d 98 (1986).
For Fourth Amendment claims, see WPI Chapter 342 (Civil Rights—Fourth Amendment—Unreasonable Search and Seizure). Regarding requirements of other specific types of constitutional claims, see also Sintra, Inc. v. City of Seattle, 119 Wn.2d 1, 829 P.2d 765 (1992) (substantive due process, property rights); Grader v. City of Lynnwood, 53 Wn.App. 431, 767 P.2d 952 (1989) (deprivation of property claim, equal protection and substantive due process), as clarified in Lutheran Day Care v. Snohomish County, 119 Wn.2d 91, 829 P.2d 746 (1992).
[Current as of September 2018.]
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