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Michigan Prisoner Awarded $376,525 For Back Injury Sustained In Crash

A Michigan prisoner has been awarded $376,525 for back injuries sustained in a prison van crash. Lorenzo Johnson, a 40-year-old state prisoner, was being transferred from one prison to another when the van he was riding in hit a patch of ice on the highway, spun out of control, and rolled over.

Johnson suffered a cervical fracture of the C5 vertebrae which required surgery and left him paralyzed for a month. He was eventually able to walk without a cane, though not for long distances. Following his release from prison, Johnson was employable only at sit down jobs.

Johnson sued the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in the Clare County Circuit Court seeking damages for his injuries. In a separate action Johnson sued the guards driving and escorting the van, Edward Mileski and Robert Sherrick. The cases were consolidated.

Johnson specifically claimed that the guards failed to safely operate the van and that the MDOC negligently entrusted the van to the guards. The MDOC disputed Johnson’s allegations claiming that the guards faced an emergency situation when the van hit the ice; that he was not permanently impaired, had recovered, and the injury did not greatly affect his life; and that he was comparatively negligent for failing to wear his seatbelt.

In September 2004, after a bench trial, the court found in Johnson’s favor and awarded him $350,000 ($150,000 for past non-economic damages and $200,000 for future non-economic damages) plus interest and costs, for a total award of $376,525.

Johnson was represented by Jason A. Waechter of Southfield. See: Johnson v. Michigan Department of Corrections, Clare County Circuit Court, Case No. unknown.

Source: Michigan Trial Reporter

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Related legal case

Johnson v. Michigan Department of Corrections

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