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Florida: Prisoner Raped In County Jail Awarded $65,950

In this case published by the Florida Jury Verdict Reporter in April 1990,
the plaintiff, a prisoner who was raped by another prisoner, was awarded

On November 23, 1987, while imprisoned in the medium-security section of
the Pinellas County (Florida) Jail awaiting trial on criminal charges,
plaintiff was raped by prisoner Samuel Turner while another prisoner kept
watch. Plaintiff informed his former employer of the incident, who in turn
notified the proper authorities. Turner was subsequently convicted of
assaulting plaintiff.

Plaintiff claimed that jail employees were negligent in their operation of
the jail and in their duty to protect him. Plaintiff specifically claimed
that: 1) too few guards were stationed to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner
assaults; 2) cell doors remained open at all times, even at night when the
lights were dimmed; 3) insufficient lighting contributed to the failure of
guards to notice and prevent plaintiff's rape; and, 4) plaintiffs age (he
was 18) and small stature should have indicated to guards that he was more
likely to be molested by other prisoners.

Plaintiff further claimed that the county failed to follow established jail
operating procedures and classification procedures, and failed to properly
investigate the attackers' criminal history, which would have indicated
that they should not have been placed in the jail's medium-security section.

Rita Hall, R.N. attested that the attacker's penis penetrated and
ejaculated in plaintiff's rectum and that plaintiff suffered rectal
bleeding. Psychiatrist Guillermo W. Cosma noted that plaintiff suffered
from depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder and, in his
opinion, required continued psychiatric care and treatment.

The county maintained an affirmative defense, asserting that plaintiff's
action was barred, either in whole or in part, by the doctrine of sovereign

A jury found the county negligent and awarded plaintiff $950 for past
medical expenses, $10,000 for past pain and suffering, $35,000 for future
medical expenses over 2 years, and $20,000 for future pain and suffering,
for a total award of $69,950. Plaintiff was represented by Jere M. Fishback
of the St. Petersburg firm Kleinfeld & Fishback. See: Van Nostran v. County
of Pinellas, Pinellas County Circuit Court, Case No. 88-10231-17.

Source: Florida Jury Verdict Reporter

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Related legal case

Van Nostran v. County of Pinellas