Options for Suing the Federal Government Under Bivens Unlikely to Expand

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In 2001, federal inmate Richard Lee Pollard sustained two broken elbows after tripping over a cart in a privately operated prison housing federal inmates. He sued five prison employees for their actions after his injuries. On Nov. 1, 2011, the Supreme Court held oral argument in Minneci v. Pollard and considered the possibility of creating a new federal remedy against private employees who work for a federal government agency.

Pollard claimed that after his injuries, prison employees put him back to work before his arms were healed, causing him extreme pain in violation of his Eighth Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment. Pollard pursued his claims under the authority of the 1971 Supreme Court case Bivens v. Six Unknown Federal Narcotics Agents, which held that, under limited circumstances, a plaintiff could bring a private cause of action for damages against federal employees who violated a constitutional right when there was no other adequate remedy under federal law.

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