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Kentucky Jail Settles Strip Search Suit for $11.5 Million

On December 23, 1998, the Jefferson county jail in Louisville, Kentucky, settled a class action suit by agreeing to pay $11.5 million to thousands of people who were strip searched after being arrested for minor offenses. The lawsuit and settlement covers everyone arrested and strip searched at tire jail between April 24, 1990 and August 24,1993. Jefferson county agreed to pay up to $20,000 to every woman and up to $10,000 to every man for each time they were strip searched

The county had already paid out over $500,000 in settlements and judgments to about 25 people who filed individual lawsuits over the ship searches. The awards were generally inthe $20 000 to $35,000 range. Aseries of strip search lawsuits were filed after a 1989 Sixth circuit ruling originating in Jefferson county held that people jailed in minor offenses could not be strip searched absent reasonable suspicion they were carrying weapons or other contraband The individual lawsuits were consolidated into a class action suitin 1994. Despite the 1989 Sixth circuit ruling, the illegal strip searches continued until at least 1993 when U.S. district court judge Edward Johnstone issued a permanent injunction banning tire strip searches of minor offenders without reasonable suspicion

In settling the lawsuit the county did not admit to any wrongdoing. The county claimed it settled the lawsuit because if the case had gone to trial, its potential liability was much higher. In one case that did go to trial, a wornan who was strip searched after a traffic arrest was awarded $140,000 in damages by a fed eral jury. The plaintiffs had initially sought $50 million The $11.5 million settlement is half of the county's resserve fund

On January 19, 1999, another class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Loiusville, claiming people were still being strip searched at the Jefferson county Jail, without reasonable suspicion, after judge Johnstone's August 24,1993, injunction went into effect. In the lawsuit that was settled, the court had declined to extend the cut off date for step searches that occurred after August 24,1993, because, in the court's opinion, there was in sufficient commonality among the plaintiffs.  In support of their motion for class certification, the plantiffs in the new lawsuit have come forward with the names of 37 individuals who were illegally strip searched at the jail after the injunction was issued.
Anyone who was jailed in the Jefferson county Jail between April 24, 1990 and August 24, 1993, on a minor, non-violent offense who was strip searched is entitled to share in the $11.5 million settlement. Call 1-800-3607644 if you are affected by the settlement.

Source: Louisville Courrier-Journal

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