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$240,001 Verdict in Boston Jail Beating Suit

On February 23, 2009, a federal jury returned a $240,001 verdict in favor of a man who was violently beaten by a guard at the Suffolk County House of Correction (SCHC).
Rodney Chaney ended up at the SCHC in August of 1998 after he was sentenced to 30 days in jail for a traffic violation.

During booking James Coughlin, a guard at SCHC, apparently called Chaney “stupid.” Chaney told Coughlin that he did not appreciate the comment, and Coughlin told Chaney in response that he would see Chaney later.

Twenty minutes passed and Coughlin returned with other guards, entered Chaney’s cell, stripped and handcuffed Chaney, and “then violently beat and kicked him causing severe personal injury,” Chaney’s federal civil rights suit states. Chaney was then “kept naked in a cell in the booking area where the temperature was reduced to an intolerably cold temperature.”

Chaney’s suit alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishment,” as well as assault and battery. The suit was initially filed as a class action in 2002 with several dozen prisoners who had been beaten and abused in the jail.

Following a jury trial in the matter, the jury returned a special verdict finding that Coughlin had violated Chaney’s Eighth Amendment rights, and committed assault and battery.

The jury awarded Chaney $170,001 in compensatory damages, and $70,000 in punitive damages. Chaney was represented by Michael G. Large of Berman, Devalerio, Pease, Tobacco, Burt & Pucillo, a Boston area firm. Additional representation was provided by Theodore Goguen, Jr. of Goguen, McLaughlin, Richards, & Mahoney, also of Boston. See: Allen v. Rouse, U.S.D.C. (D. Mass.), Case No. 00-cv-10981-RWZ.

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Related legal case

Allen v. Rouse