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Ohio DOC Guard Liable For Prisoner's Slip and Fall Exiting Transport Van

On March 19, 2007, Court of Claims of Ohio magistrate recommended that a state prison guard be found liable for allowing a mobility-impaired prisoner to receive injuries by slipping and falling while exiting a transport van.

Edward Eugene Case, an Ohio state prisoner, filed suit after he was injured in the slip-and-fall accident. Case--who had previously been severely injured in the right knee, left wrist and face in a fall from his upper bunk--was wearing a leg brace and still in pain from the previous injuries when the slip-and-fall occurred. Prior to the transport, Case told the transportation guards about his injuries, limited mobility and pain. He requested "soft" restraints, but was instead restrained with handcuffs, leg shackles and a belly band, severely restricting his step length. As he was exiting the van in the rain, Case slipped, fell and injured himself. One guard was lightly holding Case's sleeve at the time, but allegedly made no attempt to catch him. In an unrelated claim, Case alleged that prison medical officials had refused to issue him a bottom bunk restriction--a type of restriction he had at previous prisons--which resulted in the initial injury when he fell from the upper bunk.

The suit was referred to a magistrate. The magistrate held that Case failed to establish medical malpractice for the failure to issue the lower bunk restriction because he produced no expert witness to testify about the care and diligence of an ordinary physician under similar circumstances. This is critical to such a claim because the plaintiff must prove that the injury was the direct result of the physician's improper action or inaction.

Regarding the transport slip-and-fall, the magistrate found that under Ohio law the guards owed Case a duty to make a reasonable effort to ensure his safety during transport and that they had breached that duty. Therefore, he recommended judgment for Case on liability. However, the magistrate also found that the guards did not act with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner. Therefore, he recommended that the court issue a determination that they were entitled to civil immunity pursuant to R.C. 2743.02(F) and 9.86. This would prevent any common pleas court from having jurisdiction over the suit. See: Case v. Grafton Correctional Institution, 2007 Ohio 1881.

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Related legal case

Case v. Grafton Correctional Institution