CA6: Excessive force “assault” claim under § 1983 doesn’t necessarily require contact

Jail conditions can be so bad that they amount to a § 1983 “assault” without there being a more traditional assault. Here, it was a suicidal inmate knowingly put into solitary confinement and that could be pled as excessive force under the Fourth Amendment. Moderwell v. Cuyahoga Cty., 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 14051 (6th Cir. May 12, 2021):

However, this Court has held that ‘”claims of excessive force do not necessarily require allegations of assault,’ but rather can consist of the physical structure and conditions of the place of detention.” Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 946 (6th Cir. 2002) (quoting Cornwell v. Dahlberg, 963 F.2d 912, 915 (6th Cir. 1992)); see also Ingram v. City of Columbus, 185 F.3d 579, 597 (6th Cir. 1999). For example, in Cornwell, a large group of inmates “intended to protest [a] new prison policy by staging a sit-in on the bleachers” of an outdoor recreation area. 963 F.2d at 914. In response, those inmates “were rounded up” and “forced to lie face-down with their eyes closed in a cold, muddy area.” Id. On a subsequent Fourth Amendment claim, this Court explained that “claims of excessive force do not necessarily require allegations of assault.” Id. at 915 (citing Martin v. Bd. of Cnty. Commis, 909 F.2d 402, 406 (10th Cir. 1990)). Therefore, Plaintiff’s claims of excessive force based on the Corrections Defendants subjecting Johnson to the horrible conditions of CCCC’s Red Zone, despite his suicidal condition and in response to a non-violent minor infraction, are not categorically barred by the Amended Complaint’s failure to allege that the Corrections Defendants assaulted Johnson.

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