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$600,000 Awarded To Paraplegic Jail Prisoner Hurt By Riding In Non-Handicap-Accessible Vehicle

by John E. Dannenberg

A paraplegic jail prisoner who was transported to a hospital in a non-handicap accessible police car was awarded $600,000 by a federal jury on November 12, 2003 for injuries he claimed resulted from that forced mistreatment.

Philip Munoz, a 36 year-old T-10 (wheelchair-bound) paraplegic was incarcerated at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, California. On September 13, 2001, he was transported to a local hospital to treat a urinary infection. Sheriff's Deputy Michael Mansholt refused Munoz's request to be taken in a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, and instead forced Munoz to ride to and from the hospital in the rear seat of Mansholt's police cruiser.

The next day, Munoz complained his leg had been injured during transport. After 45 days more complaining to Presley doctors, he was sent to the hospital where doctors operated to remove an abscess on his leg. Following that, he remained hospitalized for four months - in isolation - to treat a highly contagious and life-threatening blood-borne infection, directly attributable to his leg trauma.

Defendants claimed Munoz's injury was not due to the rough transportation. Munoz countered it was an aggravation to a pre-existing leg fracture that was still healing at the time of his transport.

In pre-trial motions, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Johnson granted defendants' summary judgment motions as to Munoz's Americans with Disabilities Act claims and medical malpractice. A jury awarded $600,000, finding that Mansholt was negligent, but had not violated Munoz's civil rights. Munoz was represented by Montebello, California attorney Humberto Guizar. See: Munoz v. Mansholt, USDC CDCA, Case No. CV-O17881.

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Related legal case

Munoz v. Mansholt