Lee v. Young

A former inmate who suffers from asthma used prison officials under 42 U.S.C. sec. 1983 for exhibiting deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs as to his exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.  Lee sought compensatory and punitive damages totaling $1.575 million, due to the injury to his existing and future health. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendant prison officials, finding that the officials were not deliberately indifferent.  On appeal, at 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 13316, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment, noting that Lee had been transferred to a no-smoking cell (although a cellmate still smoked in that cell.).  The Court of Appeals ruled that, while Lee’s asthma was a serious medical condition, his “complaints, while valid, do not rise to the level deliberate indifference or criminal recklessness on the part of the defendants.”  While the defendants may have been negligent, they were not reckless.  See Manson, P., “7th Circuit Douses Inmate’s Suit Over Secondhand Smoke,” Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, June 25, 2008.

2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74259 (S.D. Ill., 2007).