Henderson v. Martin, et al.

A prisoner brought an action under 42 U..S.C.S. sec. 1983, seeking damages and injunctive relief.  He alleged that unwanted exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) violated his Eighth Amendment right to be protected from cruel and unusual punishment.  The district court granted summary judgment to the prison officials since the prisoner had been transferred to another facility, making his request for a transfer moot, and could not show either that he had a serious medical need for a smoke-free environment or that the prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, ruling that a “prisoner must show that the risk of which he complains is not one that today’s society chooses to tolerate” and that Henderson had failed to do so.  The court also ruled that “Henderson’s discomfort is not sufficiently serious to bring him under the protection of the Eighth Amendment.”  Even if he had proven the risk was beyond what society would tolerate, he did not prove that the prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his complaints, since they had instituted “a no-smoking policy in place inside all buildings, and even if it was improperly enforced, ‘imperfect enforcement of the policy shows, at most, negligence by the defendants, rather than deliberate indifference.”  See “Inmate’s Secondhand Smoke Exposure Claim Dismissed,” Corrections Professional, November 7, 2003.

73 Fed. Appx. 115, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 16100 (U.S.C.A. 6th Cir. 2003).