AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities
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Officer Assault: By Inmate
A correctional officer
was attacked by two prisoners while she was escorting them to a jail's
law library. The library was located in a drunk tank cell with handles
on the front and back of the door. She claimed that one of the prisoners
threw her off balance when he grabbed the inside door handle, and the prisoners
then took her hostage. The officer failed to prove that the attack was
a "state created danger" with the incident facilitated by jail
understaffing and a dangerous door handle in violation of due process.
The alleged actions of the sheriff and county commissioners in allowing
understaffing and the door handles did not rise to the level of deliberate
indifference and were not shocking to the conscience. Fields v. Abbott,
#10-2805, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 18027 (8th Cir.).
An prisoner attacked a corrections officer preparing to conduct a pat down search, punching her, knocking her to the ground, and taking her baton, which he used to strike her. The officer filed suit against the Ohio state Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections. The court ruled that the Department had refuted the argument that its decisions regarding the deployment of security devices and staff members constituted conduct equivalent to an intent to exposure her to injury. These decisions were based on both safety concerns and financial constraints. The officer was experienced and capable and there was no evidence that the Department had reason to believe that she was "substantially certain" to be injured by coming into contact with the prisoner, or that the Department failed to act to remedy a dangerous condition. Abrams v. Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction, #2006-04679, 2010 Ohio Misc. Lexis 30 (Ct. of Claims).
A sheriff, captain, sergeant, and watch commander were not liable for a detainee's brutal attack on a female courtroom deputy, inflicting severe brain damage, when he was brought to the courtroom from a holding cell and disarmed her. The courtroom deputy, the appeals court noted, was not in custody, so that the failure to provide adequate security to prevent the attack violated her due process rights only if the defendants acted with deliberate indifference or engaged in conduct that was conscience shocking, which was not the case here. Further, the courtroom deputy was exposed to the danger of such an assault by the nature of her employment, and the claims against the defendants amounted to those similar to negligence, not deliberate indifference or conscience shocking behavior. Hall v. Freeman, No. 08-11238, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 18421 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).
New York's highest court upholds reversal of award of damages for death of two officers shot and killed by a prisoner transported from a correctional facility to a prosecutor's office for a polygraph test. In the lawsuit by the estates of the officers, the plaintiffs contended that their deaths were caused by the improper use of a detective squad's locker room as a prisoner detention area, which allowed the prisoner to gain access to the locker containing the gun because its lock was either open or defective, and that the city was therefore liable for violating state labor law and its own city code requiring that buildings be maintained in a safe condition. While a jury awarded verdicts of $5,226,252 for the survivors of one officer, and $8,975,625 for the second, these awards were overturned on appeal. The immediate decision upholds those reversals and held that a provision of state labor law imposing a general duty to furnish a workplace free from recognized hazards "does not cover the special risks faced by police officers because of the nature of police work." The court also rejected the argument that rules requiring building owners to maintain safe conditions could be used as a basis for liability in these circumstances. Williams v. City of New York, 811 N.E.2d 1103 (N.Y. 2004). [N/R]
Correctional officer was properly awarded $250,000 on his counterclaim against prisoner even though this exceeded the damages requested, in light of the unprovoked nature of the prisoner's attack and the seriousness of the "life-threatening" injuries suffered by the officer. Douglas v. McCarty, #03-6776, 87 Fed. Appx. 299 (4th Cir. 2003). [N/R]
254:21 Prison officials not liable for failure to protect officer against attack by prisoner who had threatened to kill him; while officer faced danger from assignment to cellblock in which prisoner was housed, this was a risk of his job. Wallace v. Adkins, 115 F.3d 427 (7th Cir. 1997).
Two deputies attacked by inmate they were transporting awarded $5.3 million against county; former deputy had supplied inmate with handgun and handcuff keys in order to aid escape attempt. Paradinovich v. Milwaukee Co., Circuit Court, Milwaukee, Wis., reported in the Milwaukee Sentinel, p. 1A (April 16, 1992).
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