JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.
In Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981), a state prisoner sued under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, claiming that prison officials had negligently deprived him of his property without due process of law. After deciding that § 1983 contains no independent state-of-mind requirement, we concluded that although petitioner had been "deprived" of property within the meaning of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the State's postdeprivation tort remedy provided the process that was due. Petitioner's claim in this case, which also rests on an alleged Fourteenth Amendment "deprivation" caused by the negligent conduct of a prison official, leads us to reconsider our statement in Parratt that "the alleged loss, even though negligently caused, amounted to a deprivation." Id., at 536-537. We conclude that the Due Process Clause is simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or property.
In this § 1983 action, petitioner seeks to recover damages for back and ankle injuries allegedly sustained when he fell on a prison stairway. He claims that, while an inmate at the city jail in Richmond, Virginia, he slipped on a pillow negligently left on the stairs by respondent, a correctional deputy stationed at the jail. Respondent's negligence, the argument runs, "deprived" petitioner of his "liberty" interest in freedom from bodily injury, see Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 673 (1977); because respondent maintains that he is entitled to the defense of sovereign immunity in a state tort suit, petitioner is without an "adequate" state remedy, cf. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 534-536 (1984). Accordingly, the deprivation of liberty was without "due process of law."
Because of the inconsistent approaches taken by lower courts in determining when tortious conduct by state officials rises to the level of a constitutional tort, see Jackson v. Joliet, 465 U.S. 1049, 1050 (1984) (WHITE, J., dissenting from denial of certiorari) (collecting cases), and the apparent lack of adequate guidance from this Court, we granted certiorari. 469 U.S. 1207 (1985). We now affirm.
In Parratt v. Taylor, we granted certiorari, as we had twice before, "to decide whether mere negligence will support a claim for relief under § 1983." 451 U. S., at 532. After examining the language, legislative history, and prior interpretations of the statute, we concluded that § 1983, unlike
In Parratt, before concluding that Nebraska's tort remedy provided all the process that was due, we said that the loss of the prisoner's hobby kit, "even though negligently caused, amounted to a deprivation [under the Due Process Clause]." 451 U. S., at 536-537. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring in the result, criticized the majority for "pass[ing] over" this important question of the state of mind required to constitute a "deprivation" of property. Id., at 547. He argued that negligent acts by state officials, though causing loss of property, are not actionable under the Due Process Clause. To JUSTICE POWELL, mere negligence could not "wor[k] a deprivation in the constitutional sense." Id., at 548 (emphasis in original). Not only does the word "deprive" in the Due Process Clause connote more than a negligent act, but we should not "open the federal courts to lawsuits where there has been no affirmative abuse of power." Id., at 548-549; see also id., at 545 (Stewart, J., concurring) ("To hold that this kind of loss is a deprivation of property within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment seems not only to trivialize, but grossly to distort the meaning and intent of the Constitution"). Upon reflection, we agree and overrule Parratt to the extent that it states that mere lack of due care by a state
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides: "[N]or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." Historically, this guarantee of due process has been applied to deliberate decisions of government officials to deprive a person of life, liberty, or property. E. g., Davidson v. New Orleans, 96 U.S. 97 (1878) (assessment of real estate); Rochin v. California, 342 U.S. 165 (1952) (stomach pumping); Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971) (suspension of driver's license); Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651 (1977) (paddling student); Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517 (1984) (intentional destruction of inmate's property). No decision of this Court before Parratt supported the view that negligent conduct by a state official, even though causing injury, constitutes a deprivation under the Due Process Clause. This history reflects the traditional and common-sense notion that the Due Process Clause, like its forebear in the Magna Carta, see Corwin, The Doctrine of Due Process of Law Before the Civil War, 24 Harv. L. Rev. 366, 368 (1911), was " `intended to secure the individual from the arbitrary exercise of the powers of government,' " Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516, 527 (1884) (quoting Bank of Columbia v. Okely, 4 Wheat. 235, 244 (1819)). See also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 558 (1974) ("The touchstone of due process is protection of the individual against arbitrary action of government, Dent v. West Virginia, 129 U.S. 114, 123 (1889)"); Parratt, supra, at 549 (POWELL, J., concurring in result). By requiring the government to follow appropriate procedures when its agents decide to "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property," the Due Process Clause promotes fairness in such decisions. And by barring certain government actions regardless of the fairness of the procedures used to implement them, e. g., Rochin, supra, it serves to prevent governmental power from being "used for purposes of oppression," Murray's Lessee
We think that the actions of prison custodians in leaving a pillow on the prison stairs, or mislaying an inmate's property, are quite remote from the concerns just discussed. Far from an abuse of power, lack of due care suggests no more than a failure to measure up to the conduct of a reasonable person. To hold that injury caused by such conduct is a deprivation within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment would trivialize the centuries-old principle of due process of law.
The Fourteenth Amendment is a part of a Constitution generally designed to allocate governing authority among the Branches of the Federal Government and between that Government and the States, and to secure certain individual rights against both State and Federal Government. When dealing with a claim that such a document creates a right in prisoners to sue a government official because he negligently created an unsafe condition in the prison, we bear in mind Chief Justice Marshall's admonition that "we must never forget, that it is a constitution we are expounding," McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 407 (1819) (emphasis in original). Our Constitution deals with the large concerns of the governors and the governed, but it does not purport to supplant traditional tort law in laying down rules of conduct to regulate liability for injuries that attend living together in society. We have previously rejected reasoning that " `would make of the Fourteenth Amendment a font of tort law to be super-imposed upon whatever systems may already be administered by the States,' " Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 701 (1976), quoted in Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U. S., at 544.
The only tie between the facts of this case and anything governmental in nature is the fact that respondent was a sheriff's deputy at the Richmond city jail and petitioner was an inmate confined in that jail. But while the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment obviously speaks to some facets of this relationship, see, e. g., Wolff v. McDonnell,
That injuries inflicted by governmental negligence are not addressed by the United States Constitution is not to say that they may not raise significant legal concerns and lead to the creation of protectible legal interests. The enactment of tort claim statutes, for example, reflects the view that injuries caused by such negligence should generally be redressed.
In support of his claim that negligent conduct can give rise to a due process "deprivation," petitioner makes several arguments, none of which we find persuasive. He states, for example, that "it is almost certain that some negligence claims are within § 1983," and cites as an example the failure of a State to comply with the procedural requirements of Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, before depriving an inmate of good-time credit. We think the relevant action of the prison
Petitioner also suggests that artful litigants, undeterred by a requirement that they plead more than mere negligence, will often be able to allege sufficient facts to support a claim of intentional deprivation. In the instant case, for example, petitioner notes that he could have alleged that the pillow was left on the stairs with the intention of harming him. This invitation to "artful" pleading, petitioner contends, would engender sticky (and needless) disputes over what is fairly pleaded. What's more, requiring complainants to allege something more than negligence would raise serious questions about what "more" than negligence — intent, recklessness, or "gross negligence" — is required,
More important, the difference between one end of the spectrum — negligence — and the other — intent — is abundantly clear. See O. Holmes, The Common Law 3 (1923). In any event, we decline to trivialize the Due Process Clause in an effort to simplify constitutional litigation.
Finally, citing South v. Maryland, 18 How. 396 (1856), petitioner argues that respondent's conduct, even if merely negligent, breached a sheriff's "special duty of care" for those in his custody. Reply Brief for Petitioner 14. The Due Process Clause, petitioner notes, "was intended to give Americans at least the protection against governmental power that they had enjoyed as Englishmen against the power of the crown." Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U. S., at 672-673. And South v. Maryland suggests that one such protection was the right to recover against a sheriff for breach of his ministerial duty to provide for the safety of prisoners in his custody. 18 How., at 402-403. Due process demands that the State protect those whom it incarcerates by exercising reasonable care to assure their safety and by compensating them for negligently inflicted injury.
We disagree. We read South v. Maryland, supra, an action brought under federal diversity jurisdiction on a Maryland sheriff's bond, as stating no more than what this Court thought to be the principles of common law and Maryland law applicable to that case; it is not cast at all in terms of constitutional law, and indeed could not have been, since at the time it was rendered there was no due process clause applicable to the States. Petitioner's citation to Ingraham v. Wright does not support the notion that all common-law duties owed by government actors were somehow constitutionalized by the Fourteenth Amendment. Jailers may owe a special duty of care to those in their custody under state tort law, see Restatement (Second) of Torts § 314A(4) (1965), but for the reasons previously stated we reject the contention that the
JUSTICE MARSHALL concurs in the result.
JUSTICE BLACKMUN, concurring in the judgment.
I concur in the judgment. See my opinion in dissent in Davidson v. Cannon, post, p. 349.
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgments.
Two prisoners raise similar claims in these two cases. Both seek to recover for personal injuries suffered, in part, from what they allege was negligence by state officials. Both characterize their injuries as "deprivations of liberty" and both invoke 42 U. S. C. § 1983 as a basis for their claims.
Prisoner Roy Daniels was injured when he slipped on a newspaper and pillows left on a stairway in the Virginia jail where he is incarcerated; he alleges state negligence in the presence of the objects on the stairs. Prisoner Robert Davidson suffered injury when he was attacked by another inmate in the New Jersey prison where he is incarcerated; he alleges (and proved at trial) state negligence in the failure of prison authorities to prevent the assault after he had written a note expressing apprehension about the inmate who ultimately assaulted him. I agree with the majority that petitioners cannot prevail under § 1983. I do not agree, however, that it is necessary either to redefine the meaning of "deprive" in the Fourteenth Amendment,
We should begin by identifying the precise constitutional claims that petitioners have advanced. It is not enough to note that they rely on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, for that Clause is the source of three different kinds of constitutional protection. First, it incorporates specific protections defined in the Bill of Rights. Thus, the State, as well as the Federal Government, must comply with the commands in the First
The type of Fourteenth Amendment interest that is implicated has important effects on the nature of the constitutional claim and the availability of § 1983 relief. If the claim is in
Similarly, if the claim is in the second category (a violation of the substantive component of the Due Process Clause), a plaintiff may also invoke § 1983 regardless of the availability of a state remedy.
A claim in the third category — a procedural due process claim — is fundamentally different. In such a case, the deprivation may be entirely legitimate — a State may have every right to discharge a teacher or punish a student — but the State may nevertheless violate the Constitution by failing to provide appropriate procedural safeguards. The constitutional duty to provide fair procedures gives the citizen the opportunity to try to prevent the deprivation from happening, but the deprivation itself does not necessarily reflect any
Thus, even though the State may have every right to deprive a person of his property or his liberty, the individual may nevertheless be able to allege a valid § 1983 due process claim, perhaps because a predeprivation hearing must be held,
Petitioners' claims are not of the first kind. Neither Daniels nor Davidson argues in this Court that the prison authorities' actions violated specific constitutional guarantees incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment. Neither now claims, for instance, that his rights under the Eighth Amendment were violated. Similarly, I do not believe petitioners have raised a colorable violation of "substantive due process."
I would not reject these claims, as the Court does, by attempting to fashion a new definition of the term "deprivation"
Thus, I would characterize each loss as a "deprivation" of liberty. Because the cases raise only procedural due process claims, however, it is also necessary to examine the nature of petitioners' challenges to the state procedures. To prevail, petitioners must demonstrate that the state procedures for redressing injuries of this kind are constitutionally inadequate. Petitioners must show that they contain a defect so serious that we can characterize the procedures as fundamentally unfair, a defect so basic that we are forced to conclude that the deprivation occurred without due process.
Daniels' claim is essentially the same as the claim we rejected in Parratt. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit determined that Daniels had a remedy for the claimed negligence under Virginia law. Although Daniels vigorously argues that sovereign immunity would have defeated his claim, the Fourth Circuit found to the contrary, and it is our settled practice to defer to the Courts of Appeals on questions
Davidson's claim raises a question not specifically addressed in Parratt. According to the Third Circuit, no state remedy was available because a New Jersey statute prohibits prisoner recovery from state employees for injuries inflicted by other prisoners. Thus, Davidson puts the question whether a state policy of noncompensability for certain types of harm, in which state action may play a role, renders a state procedure constitutionally defective. In my judgment, a state policy that defeats recovery does not, in itself, carry that consequence. Those aspects of a State's tort regime that defeat recovery are not constitutionally invalid, so long as there is no fundamental unfairness in their operation. Thus, defenses such as contributory negligence or statutes of limitations may defeat recovery in particular cases without raising any question about the constitutionality of a State's procedures for disposing of tort litigation. Similarly, in my judgment, the mere fact that a State elects to provide some of its agents with a sovereign immunity defense in certain cases does not justify the conclusion that its remedial system is constitutionally inadequate. There is no reason to believe that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
Thus, although I believe that the harms alleged by Daniels and proved by Davidson qualify as deprivations of liberty, I am not persuaded that either has raised a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. I therefore concur in the judgments.
In any event, to the extent that petitioners' arguments about the special obligations of prison officials may be read as a substantive due process claim, I agree with the Court, ante, at 335-336, that the sheriff's "special duty of care" recognized in South v. Maryland, 18 How. 396 (1856), does not have its source in the Federal Constitution. In these circumstances, it seems to me, the substantive constitutional duties of prison officials to prisoners are defined by the Eighth Amendment, not by substantive due process. Cf. United States ex rel. Miller v. Twomey, 479 F.2d 701, 719-721 (CA7 1973) (analyzing prison officials' responsibilities to prevent inmate assaults under the Eighth Amendment), cert. denied sub nom. Gutierrez v. Department of Public Safety of Illinois, 414 U.S. 1146 (1974).