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Jury Awards $5,000 to Beaten Texas Prisoner

A federal court in Texas has upheld a jury award of $5,000 to a prisoner who was beaten by a guard, denying the guard's motion for judgment as a matter of law.

Daniel Glenn Ostrander, a Texas state prisoner, filed suit against Gary Boles and David Bergeron, guards at the Stiles Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal JusticeInstitutional Division. Ostrander alleged that Bergeron attacked him with a riot baton, causing him to lose consciousness, chipping his teeth, bruising his left cheekbone, and causing lacerations to his left eye. Ostrander also alleged that the defendants retaliated against him.

Ostrander represented himself at trial. A jury returned a verdict in Ostrander's favor as to Bergeron, but found no liability as to Boles. The jury awarded Ostrander $500 in compensatory damages and $2,000 in punitive damages for the excessive force claim, and $500 in compensatory damages and $2,000 in punitive damages for the retaliation claim.

Boles filed a motion for judgment as a matter of law. Noting that under Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may only grant judgment as a matter of law where there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a reasonable jury to find against the party filing the motion on a particular issue, the court found that it could only grant such a motion when there is not a sufficient conflict of evidence to create a question of fact for the jury to resolve. The court then held that "when considered in the light and with all reasonable inferences most favorable to the plaintiff, there is a conflict in evidence of such duality and weight that reasonable and fair-minded men in the exercise of impartial judgment might reach different conclusions. Therefore, judgment as a matter of law is not proper" on both issues. The court further found that Boles was not entitled to qualified immunity because the right of prisoners not to be subjected to excessive force or retaliation was clearly established at the time the incidents occurred. Therefore, the motion for judgment as a matter of law was denied and the jury award of $5,000 was upheld. The order is unpublished. See: Ostrander v. Boles , Civil Action No. l:97CV61 (U.S.D.C.E.D.Tex.Beaumont order signed Dec. 8, 2000).

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Related legal case

Ostrander v. Boles