Case Conclusion Date: December 17, 2009
Practice Area: Civil Rights
Outcome: Verdict for Plaintiff in the aggegate sum of $964K
Description: Plaintiff, a paraplegic from the chest down, was a work release prisoner in the Defendant's jail. He was refused medical attention at the jail, as part of the policy of the facility's policy of not treating Work Release prisoners. His cell though ADA compliant at the time of building, was not able to accommodate the plaintiff. The cell did not have a convenient call button, insufficient padding for beds, toilet, and showers, and lacked appropriate grab bars and other stabilizers to aid the plaintiff in transferring from wheelchair to toilet. The lack of appropriate pressure relieving mattresses caused open weeping pressure sores to appear on plaintiff's heels. As a result of the grab bar failures plaintiff fell and splintered his Femur, leading to a floating hip and a number of deep bruises which became pressure sore ulcerations. After falling, Plaintiff petitioned the sentencing court to change his sentence to one permitting home detention. The court sought advice from the Defendant Von Wald who at the time was Director of Adult Detention Center (the ADC). Her honor sought to find out if the jail could accommodate the plaintiff. Von Wald having been advised by the Plaintiff;s doctor, and by Plaintiff's affidavit in the Sentencing Modification Motion, that the situation was very dangerous, misled the court into thinking that the plaintiff would be allowed to bring in any mattress he needed even though he was also aware a pressure relieving mattress would not be allowed into the facility due to the Fire hazard it would introduce into the facility. Plaintiff had to have surgery on his broken leg. After the court refused his request to amend the sentence, plaintiff returned to the jail but was now placed in Special Management Unit and could no longer see his own physician. This was in spite of the court''s order to permit him work release. While in the care of the jail medical staff, the wounds on plaintiff's Buttock, Thigh and feet were observed but not addressed by ADC medical staff which allowed him to go untreated. His new cell was without any grab bars and plaintiff could not change position in bed. His sores became infected and after nine days he had to be rushed to the Mayo Clinic. Plaintiff who previously was completely self sufficient now was bed ridden for over 4 years while his toxic ulcerations healed. He has been hospitalized numerous times and has had to have a number of surgeries. The case was tried to Sr US District Court Judge James Rosenbaum (non-jury) in the US District Court of Minnesota sitting in Minneapolis. After 4 days of trial, the court found that plaintiff sustained injuries because of an &th amendment violation and further found that the Director or the ADC, Defendant Von Wald mislead the Sentencinig Court. He found that Von Wald and the medical staff at the ADC exhibited a deliberate indifference to plaintiff's needs. The Court awarded the plaintiff $114K in compensatory damages, $100K for past and future pain and suffering and $750K in Punitive damages against Deft. Von Wald, adn the ADC. Attorney fee application is pending. This is the largest verdict on a Jail house 1983 action in Minnesota history.