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Federal Prisoner Beaten On Texas Recreation Yard Awarded $350,000

On March 12, 2007, a federal district court awarded $350,000 to a prisoner who was beaten by about 40 other prisoners on the recreation yard of a federal prison in Texas.

Plaintiff Luis Garza claimed that while on the recreation yard at the Bureau of Prison's Federal Correctional Institution in Three Rivers, Texas, on February 6, 2001, he was attacked and severely beaten by a group of prisoners.

Following the attack Garza was transported to a Corpus Christi hospital and treated for a fractured skull, jaw, and cheek. He was also in a coma for eight days and underwent surgery to reduce intracranial pressure.
Garza continues to suffer from dizziness, headaches and hearing loss.

Garza claimed in his lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, that the government was negligent in failing to protect him from the assault and that this negligence was the proximate cause of his injuries.

In making his claim, Garza specifically alleged that the guard assigned to the recreation yard, Debra Romero, was negligent in the performance of her duties because at the time of the attack she was talking to another employee rather than patrolling the area as specified in her post orders.

The district court initially dismissed Garza's suit after concluding that his claim fell within the "discretionary function exception" of the FTCA. Garza appealed.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case back to the district court for a factual determination on that part of Garza's claim relating to Romero's failure to follow her post order, specifically, the part stating that guards assigned to the recreation yard "will patrol" the area.

Following the reversal the district court completed discovery and conducted a bench trial. On March 12, 2007, Judge Hilda Tagle concluded that the government was in fact negligent in that its employee, guard Debra Romero, breached her duty to patrol the recreation yard and supervise the prisoners.

As a consequence, Judge Hagle awarded Garza $300,000 for past and future pain and suffering, and $50,000 in damages for disfigurement resulting from the surgical scar on his face. Total award: $350,000.

Garza was represented by attorney Barry R. Benton of Brownsville, Texas. See: Garza v. United States of America, USDC SD TX, Case No. B-02-154.

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Related legal case

Garza v. United States of America