Deciding body (English)
Type of body
Type of Court (material scope)
Type of jurisdiction
Type of Court (territorial scope)
Outcome of the decision
Plaintiff, a prisoner in the custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections, filed a complaint against the authorities of the Department of Corrections, requesting:
- Injunctive relief concerning policies and practices aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- Injunctive relief concerning the provision of medical care, dental care, and health services generally; and
- Injunctive relief in the form of requests for early release.
Defendants argued that the Governor of Virginia is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity for official-capacity claims and that Plaintiff did not adequately allege the Governor’s personal involvement or any facts. They have also argued that the history of the Virginia Department of Corrections had issued several COVID-19 response measures, and that they did not exhibit deliberate indifference to the potential spread of COVID-19 within the correctional facilities. Instead, they took various precautionary measures in response to the pandemic. They also presented records of medical care provided to Plaintiff. The Court denied the three motions for injunctive relief filed by Plaintiff.
Facts of the case
Plaintiff contracted COVID-19 while in custody of the Virginia Department of Corrections and alleged that, although he complained of medical symptoms, he was unable to quickly report them to staff because there was no one available to whom to report them. He also did not receive immediate medical attention for those symptoms, which he attributes to chronic understaffing. He has also alleged that Defendants failed to create and implement a policy requiring that suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients be transported by wheelchair or stretcher to the medical area. Consequently, he was forced to walk to the medical area despite having difficulty breathing. Plaintiff claimed that:
- Defendants have failed to adequately protect him from contracting COVID-19, due to unsanitary conditions, failures to conduct contact tracing, or to provide personal protective equipment;
- Defendants have not provided prompt medical attention once he began experiencing medical symptoms of COVID-19, and although he complained of medical symptoms, he was unable to quickly report them to staff because there was no one available to whom to report them to;
- Defendants have not provided immediate medical attention for those symptoms.
Type of measure challenged
Measures, actions, remedies claimed
Individual / collective enforcement
Nature of the parties
Type of procedure
Reasoning of the deciding body
The Court has analyzed the Plaintiff’s claims and has reasoned that:
- Preliminary injunctive relief is an extraordinary remedy that courts should grant only sparingly. The party seeking the preliminary injunction must demonstrate that: (1) he is likely to succeed on the merits at trial; (2) he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) the balance of equities tips in his favor; and (4) an injunction is in the public interest.
- The burden is on Plaintiff to show that it is reasonably likely, and not just a speculative possibility, that harm will result absent an injunction, and Plaintiff did not meet his burden. The record reflects that Plaintiff was receiving medical care, including outside medical care. He thus cannot show that he was likely to suffer actual and imminent harm without an injunction.
- Release from incarceration, or release to home confinement is not appropriate relief in this case. Plaintiff claimed that he was not seeking “release” but an “enlargement” of custody to a community correctional center or to confinement at his mother’s home. That is a matter of semantics. He was asking for a reduction of his time in custody or an alteration of his sentence so that a portion was served in home confinement. That is not relief the Court can grant in this case, for all the reasons the Court previously stated.
- Plaintiff has not shown that he is likely to suffer imminent harm in the absence of an injunction requiring more or different medical care. As noted, he had been receiving treatment and continued to receive treatment, including care by specialists outside.
Conclusions of the deciding body
The Court has concluded that, while it is not issuing a ruling on the motions to dismiss at this time, many of Defendants’ arguments against liability are persuasive. Thus, the Court has concluded that, as to the conditions of confinement claims related to the spread of COVID-19, Plaintiff has not shown that he was likely to succeed on the merits of his claims. Therefore, the three requests for injunctive relief were denied.
Fundamental Right(s) involved
- Prisoners’ rights
- Right to health (inc. right to vaccination, right to access to reproductive health)
Fundamental Right(s) instruments (constitutional provisions, international conventions and treaties)
Rights and freedoms specifically identified as (possibly) conflicting with the right to health
Balancing techniques and principles (proportionality, reasonableness, others)
The Court has not used balancing techniques.