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Ex-Ohio Sheriff's Deputy Wins $650,000 Verdict Against CMS for Prisoner Escape

Franklin County (Ohio) prisoner Alva Campbell was escorted to court in April 1997 while in his wheelchair, unable to walk. He was not handcuffed or otherwise restrained and was being guarded only by then-Franklin County Deputy Sheriff M. Teresa Harrison. After all, there was no need for restraints or additional security, as Correctional Medical Services (CMS), the jail's for-profit health care provider, had diagnosed Campbell as having hysterical paralysis, an unexplained or psychological reason for an inability to walk. But Campbell would not make it to court that day. Instead he overpowered Harrison, took her gun, and then carjacked a nearby motorist to complete his escape.

A sheriff's department investigation blamed Harrison for the escape, finding that she disregarded several sheriff's office regulations   in   transporting   Campbell including failing to handcuff Campbell, not transporting him in a van, and failing to have a second escort officer. Harrison was subsequently fired by the sheriff, then filed suit against CMS. At trial, Harrison testified that CMS had diagnosed Campbell as a paraplegic and it was that misdiagnosis or malpractice that led to Campbell's escape. Harrison had sued CMS for lost earnings as well as past and future pain and suffering, as Campbell had also severely assaulted her in making his escape. And on November 20, 2001, a jury ruled in her favor and ordered CMS to pay Harrison damages totaling $651,241.

Harrison had claimed that she did not handcuff Campbell because she did not want to put herself at risk by getting that close to him. She also said that a supervisor is in charge of assigning a second deputy and that one was rarely assigned in such circumstances.

CMS attorneys claimed Harrison was too close to Campbell when he attacked, and thus was at fault for the escape. But Harrison countered that Campbell would not have been able to escape had he been paralyzed. "He had to stand up to attack me," she said.

Following the assault and escape from Harrison's custody, Campbell put the gun to 18-year-old motorist Charles Dials and ordered him to drive away. A few hours later, Campbell shot Dials in the back of the head, killing him. Franklin County had settled the suit brought by Dials' family for $1.3 million. CMS claims that this settlement indicates that Harrison and the sheriff's department were the negligent parties.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch

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