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Eight Washington Prison Premises Liabilities Claims Settled for $35,058

Premises liabilities claims by injured Washington state prisoners and visitors were settled in eight unrelated claims totaling $35,058 over a two year period in 2001 and 2002.

Pro per Walla Walla State Penitentiary prisoner Marcus Ogans filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint in state superior court under RCW 4.96.020 against prison officials for their negligence when Ogans, while climbing to his upper bunk using the cell bars, caught his foot and fell to the floor, injuring his back. He alleged that officials were negligent because they failed to provide necessary climbing aids, e.g., a ladder, steps or a stool, to aid upper bunk occupants, and that his injuries were thus foreseeable. Without admitting wrongdoing, on January 28, 2002, defendants settled his $100,000 claim for $4,750 plus expungement of his medical co-payment fees. See: Ogans v. Lambert, Walla Walla Superior Court No. 00-200572-6.

Walla Walla prisoner Terry Ezell sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in superior court for injuries he sustained to his right hip, shoulder and forearm when, as he sat back in his unit's barber chair, it - with Ezell - slid backwards and fell off the box it was sitting on. His negligence tort claim for pain, discomfort and limitation of movement was settled for $5,000 on June 17, 2002. Since Ezell owed back child support of $3,150, this amount was seized and paid directly to the Dept. of Social and Health Services. His Seattle attorney was Edward Harper of Olmstead Gibbs & Harper, LLC. See: Ezell v. State of Washington, et al., Thurston County Superior Court No. 01-2-00802-9.

In another upper bunk access injury claim, Washington Corrections Center (Shelton) prisoner Sidney Jenkins fell while descending, using the toilet/cell bars as the only climbing aid, injuring his patella (knee). Recommended orthopedic surgery was declined by DOC because of his impending release. They suggested he seek surgery afterwards. Jenkins sued pro se in federal district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. With a stipulation that Jenkins be preferentially moved to Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, WA, the state paid Jenkins $2,000 in complete settlement of all claims on December 20, 2001. See: Jenkins v. Maynard, US District Court (W.D. WA [Tacoma]), No. C99-0286 FDB, Settlement Agreement, December 20, 2001.

Washington Corrections Center for Women prisoner Valerie Mondini, a kitchen worker, was injured when she was required to repeatedly lift frozen chicken packages from the freezer. Although kitchen post orders specifically limited box sizes to no more than 45 lbs., the Food Manager ordered from a new vendor who shipped 69 lb. boxes, which Mondini was ordered to lift - even after the safety concerns she raised prior to the order as to possible injury. Represented by Seattle attorney Melton Crawford of McDonald, Hoague & Bayless, Mondini sued the state in her home county of Snohomish for damages resulting from tortious negligence, on a respondeat superior theory of liability. The state settled all claims for $8,308.70 on October 21, 2002. See: Mondini v. State of Washington, Snohomish County Superior Court Case No. 97-2-09511-3.

Tacoma attorney L. Michael Golden (Law Offices of Monte Hester) presented a Notice of Claim on June 11, 2001 under RCW 4.92.100 for prisoner Elmer Baker for injuries Baker suffered when he slipped and fell in a puddle of water next to the ice machine in the McNeil Island Correction Center chow hall. The rubber mats normally protecting that area were missing that day. For injuries to Baker's spine and soft tissue, and for mental and emotional injuries, the parties settled for a lump sum payment of $2,000 made on March 21, 2002; Elmer Baker, DRM Case No. 31052695.

Karen Paschke, a visitor to the McNeil Island Correctional Facility, stepped in a hole in the roadway leading to the dock all visitors are required to transit, and fractured her fifth right metatarsal. Suing the state for negligence for failure to properly maintain the roadway, to warn of a defect in it, or to provide alternate transportation, Paschke settled the claim for $8,000 on August 1, 2002. Paschke was represented by Seattle attorney Ronald Meltzer of Sinsheimer & Meltzer. See: Paschke v. State of Washington, Pierce County Superior Court No. 01-2-14270-0.

Airway Heights prisoner Donald Roberts cracked a tooth in the chow hall when he bit down on his baked beans and hit metal - apparently a shaving from a kitchen-opened can lid. The kitchen had had previous similar complaints, and subsequently changed the type of can opener it used. Roberts filed a grievance and a Tort Claim Form (SF 210) in pro per demanding $3,000 in damages. The state settled for $500 on December 31, 2001 after his tooth was fitted with a crown. See: Donald Roberts, DRM Case No. 31053550.

McNeil Island prisoner Floyd Richards also filed a standard Tort Claim Form in pro per, demanding $15,000 when his hand was broken while using a defective elevator in the kitchen. The elevator doors close from below and above when one pulls on the strap. While there should be straps both on the inside and outside for this purpose, one strap was missing. Richards wasn't quick enough in letting go of the strap on the other side, resulting in his injury. A report of this needed repair written by the Department of Labor and Industries over eight months before was ignored. This report provided the proof of knowing negligence Richards needed to prevail on his claim. The state settled for $4,500 for his pain and suffering on September 11, 2002. See: Floyd Richards, DRM Case No. 31053934.

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Related legal cases

Floyd Richards

Ezell v. State of Washington

Paschke v. State of Washington

Ogans v. Lambert

Mondini v. State of Washington

Elmer Baker

Jenkins v. Maynard

Donald Roberts