Mears v. Connolly

When the plaintiff visited her mentally ill son, a state psychiatrist and nurse left her alone. The staff was supposed to supervise all patient meetings. And the plaintiff’s son had a history of violence. When the staff left them alone, the sun beat the plaintiff severely. The plaintiff sued under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, but the District Court dismissed the claims. The Court reasoned that sovereign immunity barred the claims and that the state officials had no affirmative duty to protect the plaintiff from private violence. The Third Circuit reversed and reinstated part of the action. The Third Circuit agreed with the District Court that a doctor who had encouraged the plaintiff to visit her son did not commit any affirmative acts for which he could be held liable. But the nurse was supposed to stay and monitor the entire visit. She left mid-visit, and the attack occurred afterward. By leaving the room, the Third Circuit reasoned, she committed an affirmative act that she could be held liable for.

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