Taylor (plaintiff), an inmate in a Nebraska prison, ordered hobby material valued at $23.50 by mail. The material was received at the prison, but was lost before it got to Taylor. Taylor sued the warden and another prison official (defendants) in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska. The suit was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, for the value of the material lost due to the negligence of the defendants. Taylor claimed a violation of his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court entered summary judgment in favor of Taylor, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit affirmed in a per curiam order. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.