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42 USC 1983 Under Kentucky Law

42 U.S.C. § 1983 is a federal law that allows individuals to sue state and local government officials for violating their constitutional rights. The law was enacted in 1871, during the Reconstruction era, to protect the rights of newly freed slaves.

Under Kentucky law, a person can sue a government official under § 1983 if the official:

  • Acts under color of state law;

  • Deprives the person of a constitutional right; and

  • The deprivation is intentional or reckless.

The most common constitutional rights that are alleged to be violated in § 1983 cases are:

  • The right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures;

  • The right to be free from excessive force;

  • The right to due process of law;

  • The right to equal protection of the laws; and

  • The right to free speech.

To prove a § 1983 claim, the plaintiff must show that the government official's conduct was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. This means that the plaintiff must show that the official's conduct was a substantial factor in causing the injuries, and that the injuries would not have occurred but for the official's conduct.

If the plaintiff can prove their claim, they may be entitled to damages, including:

  • Medical expenses;

  • Lost wages;

  • Pain and suffering; and

  • Punitive damages.

Examples of § 1983 Claims

Here are some examples of § 1983 claims that have been brought in Kentucky:

  • A police officer uses excessive force to arrest a suspect.

  • A prison guard denies a prisoner their right to due process of law.

  • A school teacher discriminates against a student based on their race or religion.

  • A city government denies a resident a permit to protest a government policy.


If you believe that you have been the victim of a constitutional violation by a government official, you may be able to file a § 1983 lawsuit. It is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.


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