Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Pro Se Indiana Prisoner Awarded $100,000 in Failure to Protect Suit

On May 21, 2002, an Indiana federal district court held that state prisoner Robert Pierson was entitled to $100,000 in compensatory damages because prison officials failed to protect him from assault by another prisoner.

Pierson, 51, arrived at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City in August 1997 and was housed in an open dormitory. Soon after his arrival, Jeremy Wilkinson, 19, was assigned to the dorm. Wilkinson was known to be violent. Fearing for his safety, Pierson complained to prison officials in December 1997 about Wilkinson's assignment to the dorm and requested to be moved.

Prison officials apparently took no action, and Pierson suffered the consequences. On September 9, 1998, Wilkinson attacked and beat Pierson. Although the record is unclear, Pierson apparently suffered injuries to his head, knee, and testicles.

Pierson sued four prison officials, pro se, alleging that they violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to protect him from Wilkinson. The court granted Pierson in forma pauperis status, and based on his commissary funds, ordered him to pay a filing fee of $1.12.

Pierson supported his claim of individual liability against prison officials by alleging that Charles Wood and Dawn McMillan refused to move him, and that William Hartley was responsible for placing prisoners, also that Terrell Trigg failed to intervene. These defendants should have known he was in danger, argued Pierson, based on Wilkinson's violent history and the fact that he had warned them about Wilkinson. The prison officials defended by claiming they had no knowledge of Pierson's warning or that they had reason to believe Wilkinson posed a threat.

At trial, Pierson lost his claims against Hartley and Trigg, but prevailed on his claims against McMillan and Wood. Although the court refused to impose punitive damages, it assigned compensatory damages against McMillan and Wood in the amount of $50,000 each, for a total award of $100,000. Pierson represented himself at trial pro se. See: Pierson v. Hartley, USDC, ND IN, Case No. 00-CV-539. g

Source: Indiana Jury Verdict Reporter

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Pierson v. Hartley