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Can private parties be sued as ‘state actors?’

 

Yes. Private parties can be sued as ‘state actors’ under Section 1983

Although state actors are generally governmental employees’ including the state and local levels, private parties may be deemed a state actor for the purposes of a Section 1983 action if “(1) the state compelled the private party’s conduct, (2) the private party acted jointly with a state, or (3) the private party fulfilled a role that is traditionally a public function performed by a state.” Baez v. JetBlue Airways, 745 F. Supp. 2d 214, 221 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (citing Sybalski v. Indep. Grp. Home Living Program, Inc., 546 F.3d 255, 257 (2d Cir. 2008)).

A private party may be deemed a state actor if it, he or she conspires with a public official depriving another of their constitutional rights. In other words, a private party may be held liable as a state actor if they “acted jointly” with the state.

To establish joint action, a plaintiff must show that the private party and the public official shared a common unlawful goal. In other words, the true state actor (public official) and the jointly acting private party must agree to deprive the plaintiff of rights guaranteed by federal law. Bang v. Utopia Restaurant, 923 F. Supp. 46, 49 (S.D.N.Y. 1996). Moreover, a plaintiff must show that the private party and the state actor “carried out a deliberate, previously agreed upon plan, or that their activity constituted a conspiracy or meeting of the minds.” Dahlberg v. Becker, 748 F.2d 85, 93 (2d Cir. 1984).

Finally, private parties fulfilling roles that are “traditionally public functions” may also be held liable as state actors. For example, “traditionally public functions” could be educational systems, healthcare systems, etc.

If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, or if you know anyone who may have had their civil rights violated, please call The Sanders Firm, P.C., for a free consultation.