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$449,000 Settlement in BIA Prisoner’s Fall from Top Bunk in Detox Cell

$449,000 Settlement in BIA Prisoner’s Fall from Top Bunk in Detox Cell

The United States has settled a lawsuit alleging negligent supervision and observation of a prisoner who fell from a top bunk. While the settlement was estimated to be for $449,000, it could be more due to guaranteed annuity payments.

Avery Checora, a 42-year-old Native American, was arrested for drunkenness and held in the “detox cell” at the Bureau of Indian Affairs Detention Center in Ft. Duchesne, Utah. Shortly after his arrest on May 3, 2000, Checora fell about 4½ feet from the top bunk of a bunk bed, landing on his head on the concrete floor. He suffered a serious and permanent brain injury.

Detention center guards said Checora was observed lying on his bunk, reading quietly, shortly before the fall. Other prisoners, however, disputed that version of events. They said Checora was very ill and shaky with alcohol withdrawal symptoms. He had earlier moved his mattress to the floor and tried to lay down, but guards ordered him to put the mattress back on the top bunk shortly before the fall. Since Checora had been in the detox cell about 30 times over the last 7 years, the guards were well aware of his alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

The brain injury left Checora, an oil field laborer, essentially unemployable. The case settled on September 19, 2007. The estimated $449,000 settlement included a cash payment of $277,412 and an annuity that will pay $750 per month, guaranteed for 20 years, with lump sums of $6,500 in 2009 and $10,000 each in 2015, 2022 and 2025. Checora’s five minor children received a total of $32,600. See: Checora v. United States, U.S.D.C. (D.Utah), Case No. 2:04-cv-00395-DAK.

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Related legal case

Checora v. United States