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$56,274 Verdict in Negligent Rhode Island Maintenance Claim

A Rhode Island state jury awarded a prisoner $56,274 for a claim that alleged prison officials failed to properly maintain exercise equipment, which cased the prisoner injury. The action was filed by prisoner James Bernardo, who was imprisoned at Rhode Island?s Minimum Security Facility of the Adult Correctional Institution.

Bernardo was injured while doing sit-ups on a hyperextension bench with a T-bar that contained slots for feet placement. While doing sit-ups, the T-bar snapped and hit Bernardo above the left eyebrow. The laceration was 1.5 cm deep and required 60 stitches. It left a moderate scar. The most serious damage was a change in visual acuity and mild macular degeneration in the left eye.

At trial, Bernardo contended, and several prisoners testified, that the exercise equipment had been allowed to remain outside to be exposed to the elements since at least 1992, causing it to deteriorate. He claimed the defendants were negligent for failing to properly maintain, inspect, and repair the piece of equipment. He further contended they failed to comply with their statutory duty to protect prisoner health and maintain the facilities.

Prison officials argued Bernardo misused the equipment by holding a 50 pound metal plate for leverage, and when he brought his hands down the plate hit him in the head. Because the prison officials disposed of the exercise equipment without allowing Bernardo to inspect it, he obtained a spoilation of evidence charge to the jury.

After 4 hours deliberation, the jury rendered a verdict on April 27, 2007, that awarded Bernardo $40,000 for pain and suffering and permanent scarring, as well as $16,274 for past medical care. He was represented by Providence attorney Joyce A. Faraone. See: Bernardo v. Rhode Island, Providence/Bristol County Superior Court, Case No: PC-2004-2045.

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Related legal case

Bernardo v. Rhode Island