Quimbee logo
DMCA.com Protection Status
From our private database of 18,800+ case briefs...

Smith v. Wade

United States Supreme Court
461 U.S. 30 (1983)


Daniel Wade (plaintiff), an inmate at a Missouri state prison, was assaulted by his cellmates. Wade sued William Smith and four other guards and correctional officials (defendants) under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Wade alleged that Smith and the other defendants knew or should have known that the attack was likely to occur but did nothing to prevent the assault. The trial court instructed the jury that punitive damages were available if the defendants’ conduct was in reckless disregard of or indifferent to Wade’s safety. The trial court also instructed the jury to apply a high standard for liability in general. In order to award damages, the jury had to find physical abuse of such base, inhumane, and barbaric proportions as to shock sensibilities. The jury also had to find the defendants guilty of (1) a callous indifference or thoughtless disregard for the consequences of their actions or failures to act or (2) a flagrant or remarkably bad failure to protect Wade. The jury determined that Smith was liable for both compensatory and punitive damages. Smith appealed the award of punitive damages, arguing that such damages could only be awarded based on malicious intent. The court of appeals affirmed. Smith petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Brennan, J.)

Dissent (O’Connor, J.)

Dissent (Rehnquist, J.)

What to do next…

  1. Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.

    You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 499,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Vanderbilt, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students. Read our student testimonials.

  2. Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.

    Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students. Read more about Quimbee.

Here's why 499,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:

  • Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 18,800 briefs, keyed to 985 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
  • The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
  • Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
  • Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.

Questions & Answers

Have a question about this case?

Sign up for a free 7-day trial and ask it

Sign up for a FREE 7-day trial