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Michigan Jail Settles Unreasonable Use of Force Case for $130,000

On March 1, 2005, the Wayne County jail in Detroit, Michigan settled an excessive use of force case for $130,00. Plaintiff, Victor Walker, alleged that on October 12, 2000, while being held in the Wayne County Jail in Detroit, Michigan, he was punched in his left eye by a guard, Alphonso Reese. At the time that Guard Reese struck Walker in the eye he was holding a set of jail keys in his fist. As a result of this punch, he suffered complete and permanent blindness in his left eye and an orbital fracture.
On October 12, 2000, after being strip searched as part of the intake process into the Wayne County Jail, Walker was told by jail staff to carry the bedroll of his brother, who was on crutches, to an assigned cell. While placing the bedroll into his brother's assigned jail cell, that cell door was closed by another guard and Walker was locked in the wrong cell. Walker notified the guards on duty of the mistake to avoid the appearance of an attempted escape, but was told to wait and a guard would let him out later. While waiting to be let out of the cell Walker fell asleep and was eventually awakened by the defendant, jail guard Reese, calling his name. Once he awoke, Walker was ordered out of the cell by Reese and told to strip. Walker questioned why he had to be strip searched again and in front of other prisoners. The questioning by Walker for the need of a strip search outraged Reese who then grabbed the jail keys off of his belt and while clutching them in his fist struck Walker in the left eye, resulting in blindness in that eye.

Walker filed a pro se complaint against Reese under § 1983 alleging a violation of the Fourth Amendment for the use of unreasonable force. Based upon the requirement of exhaustion of the jail grievance process as required by Prison Litigation Reform Act, the district court issued an order to show cause why the complaint should not be dismissed for failure to exhaust. While this show cause order was pending, the complaint was not served by the U.S. Marshal as required by the PLRA, and this delay resulted in the statute of limitations expiring prior to service of the summons and complaint.

The Wayne State University Law School Civil Rights Litigation Clinic was appointed to represent Walker while the show cause order was pending. Soon after this appointment, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit based upon the statute of limitations expiring. In denying this motion, the district court found that any delay in the service of the complaint was due to the procedural requirements of the PLRA in the processing of the order to show. The court also found that plaintiff had exhausted what process was available based upon defendants' failure to answer his grievance.
The Clinic engaged in discovery and the case was set for trial. On the eve of trial, the parties reached a settlement of $130,000, inclusive of fees and costs, to compensate Mr. Walker for the loss of vision in his left eye. See: Walker v. Reese, USDC ED MI, Case No. 03-CV-73520.

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Walker v. Reese