The federal government admits that its negligence worsened a prisoner's cancer that led to his death. But the US Supreme Court says the man's family in Southern California can't sue prison medical officers in charge of his treatment. KPCC's Molly Peterson has more.
In March, the court heard the case of Francisco Castaneda - Salvadoran citizen held on misdemeanor charges. He was awaiting deportation when he began to complain about lesions on his penis. Over ten months his cancer worsened while untreated; within a year he was dead. His family has sued claiming negligence; a federal statute limits such claims against the government to a quarter of a million dollars. Castaneda's lawyers tried to argue that the Constitution protects his right to sue each doctor and nurse who neglected his medical treatment. But the Supreme Court held that Congress limited lawsuits of this kind against the government, and prohibited them entirely against individuals. Writing for all 9 justices, Sonia Sotomayor said the court "was mindful of the limits of its role," and pointed out that Castaneda is likely to recover some money against the government. Civil liberties activists who monitored the case say it shows that Congress should change the law.