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Indiana Law Journal


Section 1983 litigation, wrongful death


This article examines the use of 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 in cases in which violations of federal law by state or local officials result in a death and the rules that govern the existence of the cause of action and the available damages. State remedies for the protection of individual rights from official misconduct are often inadequate, and public protection is frequently unavailing. Thus, many plaintiffs seek alternative remedies, and in recent years the estates, personal representatives and survivors of victims of wrongful killings have increasingly turned to federal law and federal courts. Section 1983, however, is a threadbare statute, and federal courts have generally looked to state law to supply details concerning its use as a wrongful death remedy. This article reviews these developments and the tensions inherent in the incorporation of state law to fill gaps in the Section 1983 cause of action when it is often the inadequacy of state law that influenced plaintiffs' choice of federal remedies in the first place.


Reprinted in A Section 1983 Civil Rights Anthology, (S. Nahmod, ed., Anderson 1993). i