Supreme Court allows inmate’s lawsuit to proceed

Supreme Court allows inmate’s lawsuit to proceed

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Monday in Simmons v. Himmelreich [SCOTUSblog materials] that an inmate’s lawsuit against a prison guard may proceed. The court held that the dismissal of the inmate’s claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) [text] does not preclude a parallel Bivens [Cornell LII backgrounder] claim. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion of the court:

The [FTCA] allows plaintiffs to seek damages from the United States for certain torts committed by federal employees. … Many of the FTCA’s procedural provisions are contained in a single chapter of the United States Code, Chapter 171. … But an “Exceptions” section of the FTCA dictates that “the provisions of [Chapter 171] … shall not apply” to certain categories of claims. At issue in this case is whether one of the “provisions of [Chapter 171]”—the so-called judgment bar provision, §2676 [text]—might nonetheless apply to one of the excepted claims. We conclude it does not.

The ruling affirms a decision [opinion, PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Inmate Walter Himmelreich filed two suits alleging that he was beaten by a fellow inmate as a result of the guards’ negligence. His first suit was dismissed as an “Exception” to the FTCA, and the court also dismissed his second suit, holding that it was precluded by the judgment bar provision. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in this case in March.