The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the 42 USC 1983 causes of action against the sheriff and undersheriff in their official capacities, stemming from plaintiffs’ decedent’s suicide in the Erie County Jail, should not have been dismissed:
We agree with plaintiffs that in state court they can assert a section 1983 cause of action against a sheriff or undersheriff in his or her official capacity. Until 1989, New York Constitution, article XIII, section 13 (a) stated that counties could not be made responsible for acts of sheriffs. Although that provision was removed via amendment in 1989, that amendment merely granted counties the ability to assume liability if the they chose to do so … . Erie County has not passed any legislation assuming such responsibility and, as a result, cannot be responsible for the acts of the Sheriff or Undersheriff … . We thus conclude that the Sheriff and the Undersheriff are the proper defendants for the section 1983 cause of action.
“The gravamen of the cause of action pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 is deprivation of property without due process of law. The essential elements of the cause of action are conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law, which deprived the plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured . . . by the Constitution or laws of the United States’ ” … . The Sheriff has a duty to “ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing, shelter, and medical care, and [to] take reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates’ ” … . Here, plaintiffs’ allegations that the Sheriff and Undersheriff failed to take measures to ensure the safety of the inmates from suicide are sufficient to state a viable cause of action under section 1983 … . Freeland v Erie County, 2020 NY Slip Op 04244 Fourth Dept 7-24-20