Weiland v. Loomis, No. 18-2054 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Salters, an Illinois pretrial detainee, swallowed cleaning fluid. He was taken to Delnor Hospital for treatment. Guards were instructed to keep him shackled. One guard, Loomis, disobeyed that order when Salters wanted to use the bathroom. Salters grabbed Loomis’s gun and escaped. While Salters terrorized the staff, patients, and visitors, Loomis ran away and hid. Salters took nurses hostage and assaulted two nurses. After three hours a SWAT team killed Salters. Plaintiffs brought 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. Loomis moved to dismiss the complaint, citing qualified immunity. The district judge held that the complaint presented a valid claim for liability, citing the “state-created danger exception,” under which a public employee is liable for increasing the danger to which other persons are exposed. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The “state-created danger exception” is a generality that does not tell any public employee what to do, or avoid, in any situation. The appropriate level of generality would establish a rule that tells a public employee what the Constitution requires in the situation that an employee faces. No constitutional obligation to keep a prisoner under control has been “clearly established.” The Due Process Clause generally does not condemn official negligence. Plaintiffs depict themselves as frightened but not otherwise injured, and, even in tort law, negligent actors are not liable for conduct that threatens bodily harm but produces only emotional distress.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on September 19, 2019.