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Washington Prisoner Receives $17,500 for Work Detail Needle Stick

On April 26, 2002, in the King County Superior Court, the Washington State Department of Corrections agreed to pay $17,500 to settle a lawsuit brought by a prisoner who was stuck with a dirty hypodermic needle while on a work detail.

While being held in the King County Jail, Raymond Ridlon was assigned to a work detail under the supervision of the State Department of Corrections to clean up litter and other refuse. On the morning of November 2, 1999, the prisoners were working in an area known to be a gathering place for homeless people when Ridlon was stuck in the lower left leg by a dirty needle. Blood was visible in the syringe, which Ridlon believed had been discarded by a drug addict.

The injury was witnessed by two other prisoners. The supervising guard applied a snake bite kit to the area and siphoned out some blood. Ridlon was then transported to the Harborview Medical Center where he was given antiviral medication, including AZT, tested for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and given shots for hepatitis B and tetanus.

Ridlon claimed in court records that other work crews who had been laboring in the area over the previous several days had found numerous hypodermic needles. He further alleged that although the area was "filthy and dangerous," the prisoner workers were given no protective gear nor were they given proper training.

Ridlon filed a claim with the State Office of Risk Management, which resulted in a state lawsuit, on August 29, 2002, seeking $200,000 in damages. He alleged the fear of contracting one of these diseases caused him severe mental anguish, including extreme stress, anxiety and depression, which caused him to enter psychological counseling. Ridlon also suffered side effects from the AZT, including nausea, dizziness, headache, diarrhea and a burning throat for which he had to be taken to the emergency room.

The state settled the lawsuit for $17,500. Ridlon was represented by attorney Thomas J. Owens. See: Ridlon v. State of Washington, King County Superior Court, Case No. 00-2-29298-8SEA.

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Related legal case

Ridlon v. State of Washington