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New Jersey: Prisoner Attacked, Rendered Quadriplegic, Settles For $9,700,000
quadriplegic when his neck was broken in an attack by another prisoner,
settled with the county and state individually for a combined total of
Timothy Ryan, 32, was arrested for a traffic violation and held at the
overcrowded Burlington County Jail because he could not post bail. Ryan was
placed in a dank, overcrowded cell where he was attacked by another
prisoner who was known to be violent and was awaiting transfer to the state
Ryan's neck was broken in the attack, rendering him quadriplegic. At the
time, Burlington County was under a consent decree to reduce overcrowding
and to institute a classification system, but neither of those requirements
had yet been met.
Ryan sued the county, the state, and various county and state officials for
violating his civil rights. Ryan specifically alleged that convicted
prisoners and those charged with serious offenses should not have been
housed with detainees like himself and that the state failed to heed the
county's requests to remove state-sentenced prisoners from the jail.
In earlier rulings, a district court held that state officials were not
entitled to qualified immunity, Ryan v. Burlington County, 674 F.Supp. 464
(D NJ 1987) nor were county officials, Ryan v. Burlington County, 708
F.Supp. 623 (D NJ 1989).
On February 15, 1991, Ryan settled with the state for $4,100,000. Ryan had
earlier settled with the county for $5,600,000. Thus, the combined total
settlement was $9,700,000.
Ryan was represented by Albert Dragon of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and
Joseph Goldberg of Westmont, New Jersey.
Two settlement brochures and a full presentation of Ryan's case to all
representatives and counsel of the insurance carriers were among the
tactics used to negotiate the settlement, according to Dragon. The
brochures included, among other things, an overview of the facts and
evidence; an account of a typical day for Ryan, including the skilled
personnel, equipment, and supplies necessary for his daily care; quotes
from favorable summary judgment decisions; color pictures of Ryan's
decubitus ulcers and surgical scars, as well as pictures of Ryan in various
medical apparatuses; and descriptions of Ryan's 14 operations.
Additional pressure to settle resulted from Ryan's earlier settlement
agreement with the county, which included a provision that the county
defendants would pursue a cross-claim against the state defendants unless
the state settled with Ryan. See index for additional cites in this case as
there are several. See: Ryan v. Burlington County, USDC D NJ, Case No. 85-2002.
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