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Claims by Beaten Indiana Jail Prisoner Upheld; Guard’s Indemnification Claim Denied

The plaintiff said he was beaten by guards; the defendants said he was beaten by one officer, who was fired and recommended for criminal investigation. He was allegedly unruly, was gassed with pepper spray and then strapped into a restraint chair and carried to the shower, where he allegedly continued to struggle and was gassed again and beaten some more while in restraints.

The court notes that detainees arguably are entitled to a higher degree of legal protection than the Eighth Amendment, and then after reciting the Wolfish standard says that plaintiff must prove that the defendants "acted with deliberate or callous indifference, evidenced by an actual intent to violate [the plaintiff's] rights or reckless disregard for his rights." (985, citation and internal quote marks omitted)

When a guard metes out unconstitutional punishment, bystanding guards have an affirmative duty to act to prevent the violation if they have an opportunity to do so. On these facts, plaintiffs' claims against the bystanders narrowly survives their summary judgment motion.

Use of the pepper spray and the restraining chair in the bathroom were used to subdue the uncooperative plaintiff and not as punishment and are not actionable as assault and battery.

The officer who most seriously beat the plaintiff acted in an unauthorized manner, but may still have acted within the scope of his employment under Indiana law, since his attack was not "divorced in time, place, and purpose" from the use of force in subduing the plaintiff, which clearly was within the scope of officers' employment.

The plaintiff's claim of negligent hiring, which is actionable under state law, is insufficient on the facts, since all the defendants had to go on was that the officer had been fired from a foundry for cutting off part of another worker's hair, which doesn't quite rise to a propensity toward violence. The same is true of his negligent retention claim, which is based on a single incident of which defendants were not shown to have known.

The miscreant officer filed a third-party complaint against the county challenging its refusal to defend and indemnify him. However, state law makes indemnification voluntary, and the county indemnification agreement says it does not apply to acts which are criminal in nature. See: Moore v. Hosier, 43 F.Supp.2d 978 (N.D.Ind. 1998).

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Related legal case

Moore v. Hosier