Home Definition Deliberate Indifference (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

Deliberate Indifference (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

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Understanding deliberate Indifference 

Deliberate indifference is when someone “deliberately” or “consciously” does not care about the consequences of his or her actions, conduct or behavior.

The legal notion of deliberate indifference is generally used in two scenarios:

  • Harassment claims 
  • Rights of incarcerated persons

Deliberate indifference is not the same thing as negligence.

You are dealing with “deliberate indifference” when the person is “aware” or the risk or possible consequences of its acts or omissions and chooses to ignore it.

This type of behavior goes beyond basic negligence.

Deliberate indifference definition

How do you define deliberate indifference?

According to Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, deliberate indifference is:

Ignoring a situation known to exist.

Simply put, when someone recklessly disregards the risk of harm to another or the consequences of their actions, you have a case of deliberate indifference.

Law enforcement 

The deliberate indifference doctrine is used by the courts as a standard when evaluating the conduct, acts or omissions of correctional officers when dealing with inmate civil rights.

If the correctional officer willingly disregards the use of excessive force or does not care about the excessive risks to the health and safety of inmates, the courts will evaluate the conduct based on the deliberate indifference standard.

For example, prison officials are required to provide adequate medical care to the prisoners under the Eighth Amendment. 

In the event of deliberate indifference with regards to an inmate’s serious medical needs, the prison officials may be sanctioned or found in violation of their standards.

Deliberate indifference case 

There are many cases dealing with the legal notion of deliberate indifference.

Here are some notable ones:

  • An officer refusing to respond to a prisoner’s complaint: Gutierrez v. Peters, 111 F.3d 1364, 1366 (7th Cir. Ill. 1997)
  • Recklessly delaying medical care: Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825 (U.S. 1994)
  • Placing a prisoner in a cell posing the inmate to danger: Billman v. Indiana Dep’t of Corrections, 56 F.3d 785, 788 (7th Cir. Ind. 1995)
  • Failing to act when the person is aware that there is a substantial risk: Crayton v. Quarterman, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 103709 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 14, 2009)
  • Due process violation and false imprisonment: Campbell v. Johnson, 586 F. 3d 835 (2009)


So, what is deliberate indifference?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Deliberate indifference:

  • Deliberate indifference is when a person is aware of the risk or consequences of his or her actions but ignores it
  • This notion is generally used when dealing with prisoner civil rights or harassment claims
Criminal law 
Deliberate elicitation 
Deliberate ignorance
Delictual fault 
Delictual obligations
Indifference to risk 
Medical malpractice 
Negligence claims
Personal injury
Personal injury lawyer 
Tort law 
Tort reform
Editorial Staffhttps://lawyer.zone
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer and passionate about law. I've practiced law in a boutique law firm, worked in a multi-national organization and as in-house counsel. I've been around the block! On this blog, I provide you with golden nuggets of information about lawyers, attorneys, the law and legal theories. Enjoy!


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