Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 11 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 825 (1994)

Opinion of the Court



Although we have never paused to explain the meaning of the term "deliberate indifference," the case law is instructive. The term first appeared in the United States Reports in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U. S., at 104, and its use there shows that deliberate indifference describes a state of mind more blameworthy than negligence. In considering the inmate's claim in Estelle that inadequate prison medical care violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause, we distinguished "deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners," ibid., from "negligen[ce] in diagnosing or treating a medical condition," id., at 106, holding that only the former violates the Clause. We have since read Estelle for the proposition that Eighth Amendment liability requires "more than ordinary lack of due care for the prisoner's interests or safety." Whitley v. Albers, 475 U. S. 312, 319 (1986).

While Estelle establishes that deliberate indifference entails something more than mere negligence, the cases are also clear that it is satisfied by something less than acts or omissions for the very purpose of causing harm or with knowledge that harm will result. That point underlies the ruling that "application of the deliberate indifference standard is inappropriate" in one class of prison cases: when "officials stand accused of using excessive physical force." Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U. S., at 6-7; see also Whitley, supra, at 320. In such situations, where the decisions of prison officials are typically made " 'in haste, under pressure, and frequently without the luxury of a second chance,' " Hudson v. McMillian, supra, at 6 (quoting Whitley, supra, at 320), an Eighth Amendment claimant must show more than "indifference," deliberate or otherwise. The claimant must show that officials applied force "maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm," 503 U. S., at 6 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), or, as the Court also


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