Inmate's MRSA Case Still Pending at Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted eight new cases on Tuesday, but Dallas County, Texas' appeal of a judgment won by a former inmate who contracted MRSA while incarcerated in the Dallas County Jail in 2003 was not among them.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Sept. 27 granted certiorari in eight new cases, meaning those eight will be argued and then decided sometime during the court's term starting next month. Not among the eight are many significant cases -- including a lawsuit filed by protesters who occupied a Chevron offshore oil platform in 1998 and were wounded by Nigerian military personnel sent to retake the platform by force -- that the editorial staff of the SCOTUSblog listed as "petitions we're watching" and were discussed Sept. 26 by the Supreme Court justices during their first private conference of this term.

Another case on the list is Dallas County, Texas v. Duvall, in which Dallas County is appealing a January 2011 decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a case involving conditions inside the Dallas County Jail. Mark Duvall was a pre-trial detainee held in the jail for 13 days in December 2003, and he contracted methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) during his incarceration there. The infection ultimately caused him to lose an eye, according to petitions filed in the case.

A jury found the county's actions when confronted with a high rate of MRSA infections in the jail in 2002 and 2003 showed deliberate indifference and that Duvall's injuries were caused by a policy or custom of the county. The jury heard evidence that Dallas County failed to take well-known steps to prevent MRSA infections; there were around 200 MRSA infections per month among inmates in the jail at the time, representing an infection rate of about 20 percent; and most U.S. jails in 2003 were experiencing only one or two cases per month, according to the 5th Circuit's decision.

The appellate court affirmed the judgment granted to Duvall.

Not being included in the Sept. 27 cert list may not mean the Supreme Court has refused to consider the county's appeal; the court is expected to issue an list of denied cases on Oct. 3, and some cases from the Sept. 26 conference could be discussed again by justices in their Oct. 7 conference, Kali Borkoski wrote in her blog post Tuesday.

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