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Hickox v. Christie

205 F. Supp. 3d 579 (2016)

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Hickox v. Christie

United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

205 F. Supp. 3d 579 (2016)

Facts

Kaci Hickox (plaintiff) was a trained nurse who cared for patients in Sierra Leone with Ebola virus, a serious disease without a vaccine to prevent it or a medicine to cure it. Ebola virus symptoms usually appeared eight to 10 days after exposure. Just before Hickox returned to New Jersey, the governor (defendant) announced a regulatory plan to prevent the spread of Ebola virus by checking temperatures, visually inspecting for symptoms, assessing histories of risk exposure, and quarantining passengers arriving at Newark Airport from West African countries. Hickox landed in Newark, and New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) officials (defendants) took her to the Center for Disease Control Quarantine Station. Hickox’s temperature was normal, but the DOH officials placed her in quarantine hours later. The DOH officials issued a formal quarantine order for Hickox lasting until she no longer presented a danger to the public health, not to exceed the incubation period for Ebola virus. Hickox’s blood-test results were negative the next morning, but a DOH epidemiologist recommended that Hickox be held for another 72 hours of observation. Hickox requested a lawyer and was eventually released from quarantine. Hickox filed a civil-rights action in the district court against the governor and DOH officials, claiming that the arbitrary and oppressive 80-hour quarantine violated her rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The governor and DOH officials argued that the decision to quarantine Hickox for a limited observation period lasting less than the shortest Ebola-virus incubation period was substantially related to the protection of public health. The governor and DOH officials moved to dismiss the federal claims on the grounds that Hickox’s quarantine did not violate established law of which reasonable officers would have been aware, entitling them to qualified immunity.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McNulty, J.)

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