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New York Jail Prisoner Injured In Assault Awarded $750,000

On July 12, 2005, a New York court awarded $750,000 to a prisoner who suffered ankle and face injuries when he was beaten by other prisoners.
While imprisoned at Rikers Island in Queens on February 12, 1995, Joshua Torres, 17, was confronted by another prisoner who demanded his sneakers. Torres refused. While locked in his cell an hour or two later, he claimed, the cell door suddenly opened and four prisoners entered. Torres says he was grabbed, thrown to the ground, and hit in the face with a blunt object, which he believed to be a toilet brush. One of the assailants was the prisoner who had confronted him earlier.

Torres sustained injuries to his ankle and face which required surgery. He underwent open reduction to internally fixate a trimalleolar ankle fracture; three plates were inserted into his face; and his jaw was wired shut for 30 days. A subsequent surgery was performed to remove the plates, screws, and a tooth that had become infected.

Torres's mother filed the initial suit against the City of New York on her son's behalf but was removed when Torres reached the age of majority. Torres alleged the prison was negligent in its supervision of the prisoners and sought damages for past and future pain and suffering. He claimed residual injuries including headaches, blurred vision, a depression under his right eye, and a slight scar above and below his right eye.
At trial Torres asserted that the guards failed to intervene and that his cell door should have been locked. The City contended that because the incident was unforeseeable, it had no duty to prevent it. Torres's criminology expert, Alvin W. Cohn of Rockville, Maryland, testified that the City still had a duty to intervene and that the guards should have been in sight or sound range of the assault. Donald R. Weisman, M.D. (otolaryngology), of New York, New York also testified for Torres.
After deliberating for 1 hour, the jury awarded Torres $750,000 in damages. However, because 20% negligence was assigned to the assailants, Torres's net recovery was $600,000. Torres was represented by Ernest N. Reece of the New York, New York, law firm Napoli, Kaiser & Fern. See: Torres v. City of New York, Bronx Supreme Court, Case No. 8453/96.

Source: VerdictSearch New York Reporter

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Related legal case

Torres v. City of New York