Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Blair v. Anderson case brief

Blair v. Anderson case brief summary
325 A.2d 94 (1974)

Plaintiff former federal prisoner alleged that while incarcerated he was attacked by a fellow prisoner and that defendants, corrections department, its officers, and the state, were negligent in permitting such assault. The Superior Court (Delaware) granted the state's motion to dismiss the action on the ground that it was barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and the former prisoner appealed.

The state argued that it could not have been sued by the former prisoner because the doctrine of sovereign immunity permitted such suit only after waiver by a legislative act and claimed that the general assembly had not passed such an act.


  • The court found that the state was, generally, entitled to the defense of immunity. 
  • However, the court found that the state had entered a contract with the federal government under 18 U.S.C.S. § 4042, which regarded the safekeeping and protection of prisoners. 
  • By entering that contract, the state waived sovereign immunity in a suit for its own breach of that contract. 
  • Though the former prisoner was not a party to the contract, the court found that he was indeed a third-party beneficiary to the contract and, as such, could bring a claim to enforce it. 
  • Under § 4042, the federal government owed a duty of care and subsistence to a person it caused to be committed and it owed him a statutory duty, which, by the contract the state agreed to perform. 
  • The former prisoner, therefore, had a claim under contract.

The judgment was affirmed in part and reversed as to the contract claim.

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