A Nevada state prisoner who was attacked by an inmate after warning prison officials about death threats made against him should be allowed to proceed with his lawsuit against the warden and other staff, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month.
In October 2013, inmate Robert Wilk and another prisoner, Ysaquirle Nunley, were housed together in a unit of Nevada’s High Desert State Prison. That month, Wilk complained to a case manager that Nunley had threatened to kill him.
Prison officials moved Wilk to a protective wing of the prison. A few days later, Wilk says he attended a meeting with his case manager, the prison’s warden and an associate warden to discuss where he would be housed next.
Court documents show Wilk agreed to be moved to another unit because he thought he would be protected from Nunley. But the following February, Nunley attacked Wilk. The inmate suffered from a broken nose and damaged eyes, according to his testimony.
In court proceedings, Wilk’s case manager acknowledged moving both men into adjoining units. The prison acknowledged they keep “enemy” lists between rivaling inmates, but the case manager said a clerical error meant Nunley was not added to Wilk’s “enemy” list.
Wilk sued, arguing the prison violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from Nunley.
A district court initially granted a motion by the prison to dismiss Wilk’s case, but the Ninth Circuit reversed this decision in April, saying a “reasonable fact finder” would conclude that the prison was aware of the threat made against Wilks and failed to respond accordingly.
The appellate judges also found that the prison failed to provide discovery evidence to Wilk, including his institutional record. The judges said Wilk was entitled to that evidence and “should have another opportunity to seek the materials he requested previously, which have the potential to identify or exclude the defendants.”
That material could be crucial as two of the three parties being sued by Wilk — the warden and associate warden — have not acknowledged attending the meeting between Wilk and his case manager as Wilk claims.
The appellate court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings.