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$1.5 Million Settlement for CA Jail Prisoner’s Broken Leg

Ventura County, California officials have settled an excessive-force lawsuit brought by a prisoner whose leg was severely broken while he was being restrained by jail deputies. The $1.5 million award, while admittedly high, avoided both the high costs of attorney fees in the civil rights suit and an even larger potential damage award for 40 years of future pain, suffering and medical costs.

Michael Andrews, 43, a 5’9” 150-pound pre-trial detainee held on suspicion of public intoxication and vandalism, struggled with three deputies at the Ventura County jail while two other deputies “supervised.” Also observing the incident was the jail’s overhead video camera.

The video footage recorded the five deputies surrounding Andrews, who was handcuffed, and ordering him to get down. The deputies proceeded to kick his feet out from under him and sit on his legs. They then left him in a holding tank for three hours while he was crying for help because his leg had been fractured. Andrews’ attorney, Michael Alder, said the broken bone cut off circulation in Andrews’ lower leg.

Doctors found that Andrews’ leg was broken below the knee and performed two operations. Nonetheless, the knee had only a 90-degree range of movement and may eventually need to be replaced, and Andrews suffered continuous pain.

Due to his disability, Andrews could not return to his prior work as a security guard.
Charles Pode, Ventura County’s risk manager, said the jail deputies were “doing the best they [could] under the circumstances,” referring to Andrews’ inebriation. But the videotaped footage of the incident, and the $1.5 million payout by the county, suggested they could have done far better. See: Andrews v. County of Ventura, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:06-cv-06540-VBF-FFM.

Additional source: Ventura County Star

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Related legal case

Andrews v. County of Ventura