WPI 341.04 Civil Rights—Failure to Train or Inadequate Training—Municipal Liability—“Deliberate...
6A WAPRAC WPI 341.04Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
6A Wash. Prac., Wash. Pattern Jury Instr. Civ. WPI 341.04 (7th ed.)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Civil
April 2022 Update
Part XVII. Civil Rights
Chapter 341. Civil Rights—Municipal and Local Government Liability
WPI 341.04 Civil Rights—Failure to Train or Inadequate Training—Municipal Liability—“Deliberate Indifference”—Definition
“Deliberate indifference” is the disregard for a known or obvious consequence of one's acts or omissions. To establish deliberate indifference,(name of plaintiff)must prove that under the facts available to policymakers of(name of defendant)they knew or should have known that a [lack of training] [inadequate training] was substantially certain to result in a violation of the(specify the federal (constitutional) right at issue)rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, of persons with whom the [untrained] [inadequately trained] employee comes into contact.
NOTE ON USE
Use this instruction with a municipal liability claim under a theory of failure to train, supervise, or instruct (WPI 341.02). This is a complex area of law, and trial courts must use caution in determining the precise jury instructions. See further discussion in the Comment below and the Comment to WPI 341.02 (Civil Rights—Municipal and Local Government Liability—Failure to Train, Supervise, or Instruct—Burden of Proof).
This deliberate indifference instruction is designed only for allegations of failure to train or inadequate training. Do not use this instruction in conditions of confinement cases involving claims of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs or failure to protect against serious harm of a non-medical nature.
For Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims against a person who, while working for a municipal or local government, has direct contact with inmates with regard to serious medical needs of prisoners, see WPI 343.00 (Introduction—Conditions of Confinement—Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment) for information on more specific instructions for that purpose. Likewise, for Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment claims against a person who, while working for a municipal or local government, has direct contact with inmates with regard to non-medical conditions of confinement, see WPI 343.00 regarding more specific instructions for “failure to protect” cases.
This instruction has been modified for this edition to reflect the objective standard of deliberate indifference applicable to claims against a municipality adopted by the Ninth Circuit in Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 831 (2017) (citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 841, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994)).
To keep current on the United States Supreme Court case law, and interpretations of “deliberate indifference” and other Section 1983 jury instruction issues, practitioners should review pattern instructions from the United States Courts of Appeals. These instructions, Notes on Use, and Comments are found on the websites of the Courts of Appeals and in published reports from those courts.
Compared to the more direct route to municipal liability, a local government's culpability for deprivation of federal constitutional rights under Section 1983 “is at its most tenuous” when the claim alleges that a local governmental employee was not trained or was inadequately trained. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 179 L.Ed.2d 417 (2011). “[D]eliberate indifference is a stringent standard of fault, requiring proof that a municipal actor disregarded a known or obvious consequence of his action.” Bryan County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 410, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997).
In Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d 1060, 1076 (9th Cir. 2016) (en banc), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 831 (2017), the Ninth Circuit held that the deliberate indifference inquiry is objective with respect to claims against a municipality, citing Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 841, 114 S.Ct. 1970, 128 L.Ed.2d 811 (1994). The Castro objective standard is satisfied when “a § 1983 plaintiff can establish that the facts available to [government] policymakers put them on actual or constructive notice that the particular omission [or act] is substantially certain to result in the violation of the constitutional rights of their citizens.” Castro v. County of Los Angeles, 833 F.3d at 1076 (quoting City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1197, 103 L.Ed.2d 412 (1989) (O'Connor, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)) (emphasis omitted).
When a local government has a “policy of inaction” despite the fact that the local government is on notice that the untrained or inadequately trained employees cause such violations of constitutional rights, inaction “is the functional equivalent of a decision by the city itself to violate the Constitution.” City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. at 395 (O'Connor, J., concurring). In order for the plaintiff to establish that the defendant knew or should have known that a constitutional violation was highly predictable, a single incident of a constitutional violation—without establishing a pattern—is normally not sufficient. Rather, evidence of a pattern of previous complaints, of incidents occurring before and similar to the plaintiff's current allegation against the municipal defendant, is normally required in order to show the “known or obvious” aspect of deliberate indifference. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 61, 131 S.Ct. 1350, 179 L.Ed.2d 417 (2011).
Nevertheless, if it is obvious that employees such as the person who allegedly violated plaintiff's rights are routinely using weapons and instruments that could result in deadly force—or other relevant circumstances—and this makes it obvious there is an urgent need for a particular type of training in order to avoid violating the specific constitutional rights at issue, in the particular manner that occurred in the currently alleged violation, and that specific training is not given, then under such circumstances the plaintiff may rely on one incident without more of a pattern. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. at 61–74.
Obvious gaps in training for certain high-risk areas of constitutional law—i.e., failing to teach employees a set of behaviors when it is highly predictable that not teaching those specific ways of doing the job will lead directly to a specific and extremely damaging or lethal constitutional violation—allow the plaintiff to rely on the single incident exception.
For example, in Gregory v. City of Louisville, 444 F.3d 725, 754–57 (6th Cir. 2006), the plaintiff alleged that the Louisville police department failed to train its officers in constitutionally permissible identification techniques. The police department relied on show-ups for victims to identify perpetrators, rather than using line-ups, and the plaintiff produced evidence of a “waiver” form that police routinely used to bypass the considerations for reliability set forth in Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188, 199–201, 93 S.Ct. 375, 34 L.Ed.2d 401 (1972); see also Foster v. California, 394 U.S. 440, 443, 89 S.Ct. 1127, 22 L.Ed.2d 401 (1969). Under these circumstances, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that:
First, Plaintiff need not present evidence of a pattern of complaints consistent with his own if he presents evidence of a written policy unconstitutional on its face. The facts of this case show that the City's written line-up “waiver” form is direct evidence of a custom or practice, obviating the need for circumstantial evidence a court might otherwise seek. Second, Plaintiff need not present evidence of other complaints if he can show that the City failed to train its officers in proper identification techniques, and that such failure to train had the “obvious consequences” of leading to constitutional violations of the sort experienced by Plaintiff.
Gregory v. City of Louisville, 444 F.3d at 755 (internal citations omitted).
Thus, in Gregory, the court held that because the plaintiff had evidence showing there was a lack of training in a police skill that was crucial to ensure reliable identification, there was, under the City of Canton standard for municipal liability, an obvious gap in training and the obvious and extreme constitutional consequences flowing from that gap. Therefore, a single incident was sufficient to present a question of fact for the jury and summary judgment was denied. See also, Young v. City of Providence, 404 F.3d 4, 28–29 (1st Cir. 2005) (failure to train police officers regarding friendly-fire shootings); Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d 837, 844–45 (10th Cir. 1997) (failure to train police officers regarding how to handle an emotionally disturbed, suicidal person who is carrying a gun).
In Brown v. Bryan County, 219 F.3d 450, 458–65 (5th Cir.) (following remand from U.S. Supreme Court, in Bryan County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 117 S.Ct. 1382, 137 L.Ed.2d 626 (1997)), the Fifth Circuit upheld a jury instruction that provided:
[The sheriff] would have acted with deliberate indifference in adopting an otherwise constitutional training policy if in light of the duties assigned to [the deputy sheriff] the need for more or different training was so obvious and the inadequacy so likely to result in violations of constitutional rights, that [the sheriff] can be reasonably said to have been deliberately indifferent to the constitutional needs of the Plaintiff.
Brown v. Bryan County, 219 F.3d at 462 n.12. In the Brown case, the plaintiff alleged that the county failed to train a specific sheriff's deputy about how to handle situations of fleeing suspects, and that this was evidence of a county policy. The court upheld the jury's verdict as to both deliberate indifference and causation, despite the fact that there was no previous pattern of violations, because a single incident of injuring a citizen during a car chase was sufficient under the “obviousness” standard of City of Canton.
[Current as of September 2018.]
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