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Nebraska Court Awards Prisoner $267,000 in Failure to Protect Suit

Nebraska Court Awards Prisoner $267,000 in Failure to Protect Suit

by David M. Reutter

Following a bench trial, a Nebraska state court found prison officials were aware of threats to prisoner James M. Saylor but failed to take steps to protect him. Consequently, the court awarded damages and interest totaling $267,000.

According to court documents, problems began for James Saylor in 2002 after several arguments with his cellmate and rumors that he had snitched on another prisoner’s escape plans at the Lincoln Correctional Center. He alleged his statements to prison staff were leaked to other prisoners and told staff he had been confronted by prisoners following the leak and felt threatened, but was told he was paranoid.

Over the next two months he reported additional threats to prison staff and asked to be separated. His cellmate stole his property, demanded $400 for “protection” and threatened to beat him up if he did not move. When the cellmate was placed in solitary confinement on an unrelated matter, Saylor was warned to be out of the cell when he returned. Staff failed to act on any of Saylor’s complaints.

Upon returning to the cell after his release from solitary, Saylor’s cellmate struck him in the face and said he was going to bring his friends into the cell. Staff disputed Saylor’s contention that he had reported that assault.

In May 2002, Saylor was viciously attacked; a blanket was placed over his head, and he was put in a chokehold and struck repeatedly in the side of the face. His cellmate then raped him. Afterwards, he was told one or more of the attackers would return if he reported the incident.

The court noted that prison staff did not document Saylor’s conflicts with his cellmate before he was attacked, nor did they photograph him after he was assaulted. The court held prison officials should have separated Saylor from his cellmate and awarded him $250,000 plus $17,000 in interest for his injuries, which included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Saylor remains incarcerated, serving 10 years to life for second-degree murder. He was represented by attorney Joshua Barber. See: Saylor v. State of Nebraska, Third District Court, Lancaster County (NE), Case No. CIOS-1597.

In 2012, Saylor filed suit in federal court against Nebraska prison officials and Correct Care Solutions LLC, claiming, among other issues, that prison staff had “failed to provide him with necessary and adequate mental health and medical care,” including treatment for his PTSD resulting from the 2002 assault and rape. The district court denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on December 22, 2014, and the case remains pending. See: Saylor v. State of Nebraska, U.S.D.C. (D. Neb.), Case No. 4:12-cv-03115-JFB-TDT.


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Related legal cases

Saylor v. State of Nebraska

Saylor v. State of Nebraska