Johnson, et al., v. Goord, et al.

Nonsmoking prisoners filed suit, alleging constitutional claims, related to their exposure to secondhand smoke. The court ruled that, at this stage, “there is a triable issue of fact whether the exposure of inmates with demonstrated respiratory problems to ETS meets the objective prong” of the Helling v. McKinney test for an Eighth Amendment violation due to exposure to secondhand smoke in prison.  Regarding the subjective prong, requiring plaintiffs to prove deliberate indifference by the defendants, the court ruled that the “manner in which the grievances were handled does not show any deliberate indifference to the merits of” Johnson’s complaints.  Thus, because the “plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate anything more than isolated instances of non-compliance with the January 1, 2001 smoking ban, defendants are entitled to summary judgment for the period January 1, 2001 to present. [September 29, 2004].”

The Defendants’ renewed motion for summary judgment on the plaintiffs’ pre-2001 claims regarding secondhand smoke was granted, at 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25311, 2005 WL 2811776 (U.S.D.C. S.D.N.Y. 2005).   The Court ruled that the “adoption of a smoking policy designed to eliminate indoor smoking completely, though not in one fell swoop, cannot be said to demonstrate deliberate indifference to an inmate’s health, especially in light of unique issues faced in administering a correctional facility.”

2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19658 (U.S.D.C. S.D.N.Y. 2004).