LANGUAGE

Helling, et al. v. McKinney

An inmate brought a civil rights action against representatives of the Nevada State prison system, alleging that his involuntary, unhealthy exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) resulting from assignation to a cell with a five-pack-a-day smoker violated the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The Court held that the plaintiff's allegations that the defendants "have, with deliberate indifference, exposed him to levels of ETS that pose an unreasonable risk of serious damage to his future health" constituted a cause of action under the Eighth Amendment. The Court therefore remanded the case for further proceedings, noting that successful prosecution of his claim would require the plaintiff to prove: (1) present exposure to unreasonable levels of ETS; (2) the severity and likelihood of future harm; (3) societal perception of this exposure as violating "contemporary standards of decency"; and (4) the deliberate indifference of prison officials to this risk of harm.