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California Jail Detainee Attacked by Cellmate, Family Accepts $1.85 Million

The family of Jimmy Haws has settled a federal lawsuit against Monterey County and county officials for $1.85 million, two years after initiating litigation following an assault against Haws who, while a pretrial detainee at a jail in Salinas, California, was attacked by a cellmate and sustained permanent brain damage.

Haws was awaiting trial for armed robbery when he was attacked by Roger Spencer, a fellow detainee who, according to the § 1983 complaint subsequently filed by Haws’ wife and guardian ad litem, was so violent and mentally unstable that the de-fendants knew or should have known that he was a danger to other persons in custody at the Salinas jail. Although Haws and Spencer were separated by placement in isolation, they were subsequently housed together again in the same cell. On De-cember 7, 2006, Spencer allegedly attacked Haws again, placing him in a head lock for several minutes and rendering him un-conscious. When Spencer released him, Haws fell unconscious down a flight of stairs, struck his head and sustained a closed head injury.

It took 42 minutes to summon emergency medical personnel and transport Haws less than a city block to a public hospital. By that time, he was conscious again and able to speak. A doctor ordered that Haws be given a CT scan. It took over 90 minutes to move Haws to the location in the hospital where a CT scan could be performed. During that time, his condition seriously deteriorated. The CT scan disclosed massive internal bleeding in the area of Haws’ brain and an im-mediate need for surgical intervention. By the time the surgery was performed, however – about two hours after the CT scan – Haws had suffered irreversible brain damage.

Represented by attorneys Michael Moore of San Francisco and Ralph Boroff of Santa Cruz, Haws’ wife, Carrie, brought suit against Monterey County, its Sheriff, the hospital where Haws was treated, and 300 “Doe” employees of the jail and hospital, on behalf of herself, her husband and their two minor children, alleging various state and federal causes of action.

The county decided to settle the lawsuit on the eve of trial after one of its own experts provided deposition testimony that supported Haws’ claim that the jail was overcrowded and inadequately staffed and operated.

Before fees and expenses, Jimmy Haws received $1.5 million, while each of his children received $50,000; the remain-der of the settlement went to Carrie Haws. After fees and expenses, Jimmy Haws received over $800,000, to be held in trust for him for his ongoing medical needs. See: Haws v. County of Monterey, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Cal.), Case No. 5:07-cv-02599-JF.

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Related legal case

Haws v. County of Monterey