from the United States District Court for the Northern
District of Texas
OWEN, Chief Judge, JONES and SMITH, Circuit Judges.
E. SMITH, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Taylor, a Texas inmate, sued Robert Stevens, Robert Riojas,
Ricardo Cortez, Stephen Hunter, Larry
Davidson, Shane Swaney, Franco Ortiz, Joe Martinez, Creastor
Henderson, and Stephanie Orr under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violating his Eighth Amendment rights. At the time of the
events, the defendants were prison officials at the John T.
Montford Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
contended generally that he was housed in unconstitutional
conditions and that various defendants were deliberately
indifferent to his health and safety. He sought compensatory
and punitive damages, a declaratory judgment, and injunctive
Taylor's individual-capacity claims are relevant to this
appeal. Specifically, Taylor appeals the summary judgment, on
the basis of qualified immunity ("QI"), for
• Stevens, Riojas, Cortez, Hunter, Davidson, Swaney,
Martinez, and Henderson, on Taylor's claim that they
violated the Eighth Amendment in forcing Taylor to live in
two filthy cells for six days.
• Riojas, Martinez, Ortiz,  and Henderson,
Taylor's claim that they were deliberately indifferent to
his health and safety in refusing to escort him to the
restroom for a twenty-four-hour period.
• Riojas, Martinez, and Henderson, on Taylor's claim
that they violated the Eighth Amendment in failing
immediately to assess his chest pains.
• Orr, on Taylor's claim that Orr was deliberately
indifferent to Taylor's health in failing immediately to
examine Taylor upon his request to see a doctor.
• Warden Stevens, on Taylor's claim that Stevens
created and implemented an unconstitutional policy that
allowed the above violations.
affirm as to all claims, save one.
Riojas, Cortez, Hunter, Davidson, Swaney, and Martinez
contend that Taylor filed his notice of appeal too late,
we lack appellate jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.
We disagree. The district court entered a final Federal Rule
of Civil Procedure 54(b) judgment on the claims relevant to
this appeal on January 5, 2017. On January 14, 2017, Taylor
timely filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) motion
to alter or amend that judgment. The district court denied
the motion on January 30, 2017. Taylor had until thirty days
after the Rule 59(e) denial to file his notice of appeal.
See Fed. R. App. P. 4(a)(4)(A)(iv). Taylor did so on
February 22, 2017, which is within the thirty-day limit. So,
we have jurisdiction.
Standard of Review
review a summary judgment de novo, applying the same
standards as the district court. We construe all facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmovant." Arenas v. Calhoun, 922 F.3d 616,
620 (5th Cir. 2019) (citations omitted). When a defendant
pleads QI, however, "the burden then shifts to the
plaintiff, who must rebut the defense by establishing a
genuine fact issue as to whether the official's allegedly
wrongful conduct violated clearly established law."
Brown v. Callahan, 623 F.3d 249, 253 (5th Cir.
2010). We still draw all inferences in the plaintiff's
Qualified Immunity and Eighth Amendment Claims
district court granted summary judgment for each defendant on
the basis of QI. "The [QI] defense has two prongs:
whether an official's conduct violated a constitutional
right of the plaintiff; and whether the right was clearly
established at the time of the violation. A court may rely on
either prong of the defense in its analysis."
Id. (citations omitted). Thus, at the first prong, a
prisoner bringing a § 1983 claim for violations of the
Eighth Amendment must show that his Eighth Amendment rights
were violated. See id.
inmate must establish two elements-one objective, one
subjective- to prevail on a conditions-of-confinement claim.
Arenas, 922 F.3d at 620. First, he must show that
the relevant official denied him "the minimal civilized
measure of life's necessities" and exposed him
"to a substantial risk of serious harm."
Id. (quotation marks omitted). The "alleged
deprivation" must be "objectively serious."
Id. Second, the prisoner must show "that the
official possessed a subjectively culpable state of mind in
that he exhibited deliberate indifference" to the risk
of harm. Id. (citations and quotation marks
deliberate indifference is no small hurdle. See id.
"A prison official displays deliberate indifference only
if he (1) knows that inmates face a substantial risk of
serious bodily harm and (2) disregards that risk by failing
to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id.
(quotation marks omitted). This is a fact-intensive inquiry
"subject to demonstration in the usual ways, including
inference from circumstantial evidence." Gates v.
Cook, 376 F.3d 323, 333 (5th Cir. 2004). "[A]
factfinder may conclude that a prison official knew of a
substantial risk from the very fact that the risk was
complaint, Taylor contended that he was forced to reside in
two unconstitutionally filthy cells for six days. The
defendants for that claim (Stevens, Riojas, Cortez, Hunter,
Davidson, Swaney, Martinez, and Henderson) asserted QI and
moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted.
We affirm, because though there are factual disputes as to a
constitutional violation, the law wasn't clearly
stayed in the first cell starting September 6, 2013. He
alleged that almost the entire surface-including the floor,
ceiling, window, walls, and water faucet-was covered with
"massive amounts" of feces that emitted a
"strong fecal odor." Taylor had to stay in the cell
naked. He said that he couldn't eat in the cell, because
he feared contamination. And he couldn't drink water,
because feces were "packed inside the water
faucet." Taylor stated that the prison officials were
aware that the cell was covered in feces, but instead of
cleaning it, Cortez, Davison, and Hunter laughed at Taylor
and remarked that he was "going to have a long
weekend." Swaney criticized Taylor for complaining,
stating "[d]ude, this is [M]ontford, there is shit in
all these cells from years of psych
patients." On September 10, Taylor left the cell.
later, September 11, Taylor was moved to a "seclusion
cell," but its conditions were no better. It didn't
have a toilet, water fountain, or bunk. There was a drain in
the floor where Taylor was ordered to urinate. The cell was
extremely cold because the air conditioning was always
And the cell was anything but clean.
alleged that the floor drain was clogged, leaving raw sewage
on the floor. The drain smelled strongly of ammonia, which
made it hard for Taylor to breathe. Yet, he alleged, the
defendants repeatedly told him that if he needed to urinate,
he had to do so in the clogged drain instead of being
escorted to the restroom. Taylor refused. He worried that,
because the drain was clogged, his urine would spill onto the
already-soiled floor, where he had to sleep because he lacked
a bed. So, he held his urine for twenty-four hours before
involuntarily urinating on himself. He stayed in the
seclusion cell until September 13. Prison officials then
tried to return him to his first, feces-covered cell, but he
objected and was permitted to stay in a different cell.
other claims, Taylor sued Stevens, Riojas, Cortez, Hunter,
Davidson, Swaney, Martinez, and Henderson under § 1983,
complaining that the squalid conditions violated the Eighth
Amendment. The defendants raised the defense of QI and moved
for summary judgment in part on that basis. Taylor responded
mainly with his verified pleadings and a declaration.
district court granted summary judgment on the basis of QI,
noting that the defendants had "provided little in the
way of specific summary judgment evidence to support their
assertion that the cells were not, in fact, covered with
feces." But the court found "merit in
[d]efendants' general argument . . . that the alleged
cell conditions [did] not rise to the level of a
constitutional violation." The court held that (1)
because Taylor was exposed to the paltry cell conditions
"for only a matter of days," there was no
constitutional violation under Davis v. Scott, 157
F.3d 1003 (5th Cir. 1998), and that (2) Taylor had not
"show[n] that he suffered any injury." The court
also found that the defendants had allowed Taylor to shower
twice and had attempted to clean the first cell's walls.
Taylor appeals, contesting the district court's
application of Davis and averring that the court
improperly resolved genuine factual disputes at summary
Eighth Amendment "does not mandate comfortable prisons,
but neither does it permit inhumane ones." Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). At a minimum, prison officials
"must provide humane conditions of confinement" and
"ensure that inmates receive adequate food, clothing,
shelter, and medical care." Id. They cannot
deprive prisoners of the "basic elements of
hygiene" or the "minimal civilized measure of
life's necessities." Palmer v. Johnson, 193
F.3d 346, 352-53 (5th Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted).
Prison conditions cannot inflict "wanton and
unnecessary" pain. Id. at 351.
unsanitary" cells can violate the Eighth Amendment.
Harper v. Showers, 174 F.3d 716, 720 (5th Cir.
1999). In McCord v. Maggio, 927 F.2d 844, 848 (5th
Cir. 1991), for example, we found a violation where a
prisoner was forced, for a ten-month period, to sleep on a
wet mattress "in filthy water contaminated with human
waste." Such conditions were "unquestionably a
health hazard" and were "so unhygienic as to amount
to a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment."
Id. The responsible official therefore did not
"meet the threshold requirements for [QI]."
in Gates, 376 F.3d at 338, we held that officials
had violated the Eighth Amendment in forcing prisoners to
live in cells covered with "crusted fecal matter, urine,
dried ejaculate, peeling and chipping paint, and old food
particles." The district court hadn't clearly erred
in finding that "[l]iving in such conditions"
presented "a substantial risk of serious harm to the
inmates." Id. And because the officials could
have "easily observed" those deplorable conditions,
there was no clear error in finding them deliberately
indifferent to the risk. Id.
cell does not automatically violate the Constitution,
however. A "filthy, overcrowded cell . . . might be
tolerable for a few days and intolerably cruel for weeks or
months." Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 686-87
(1978). Heeding that instruction, we have held that a
prisoner's three-day stay in a cell smattered with blood
and excrement did not offend the Eighth Amendment-at ...