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$45,000 Jury Award For Injuries Caused By Georgia Prison CERT Team

By Christopher Zoukis

A jury awarded $45,000 in damages against four Georgia state prison Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members on June 12, 2013.

Ammon Ra Sumrall was imprisoned at the Autry State Prison October 27, 2009. During the intake and orientation process, Sumrall claimed that four CERT members became unsatisfied with his responses to their questions, and took him into a separate room for a beating.

Sumrall alleged that officers Harris, Hart, Taylor and White slapped him and knocked him to the ground. When he attempted to flee the assault, he was again knocked to the ground, dragged back into the room, and beaten, punched and kicked in the head, back and lower body. Afterward, Sumrall was allegedly ordered to keep quiet about the incident.

Sumrall filed a federal lawsuit against the four prison guards, claiming violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. He argued that the officers used excessive force in a malicious manner.

The defendants denied beating Sumrall, and alleged that immediately after the supposed incident, he told a nurse that he was fine. Medical records submitted by Sumrall told a different story, however. They indicated scratches and abrasions to his body, combined with tenderness on his left side. Sumrall said that the tenderness was a symptom of broken ribs.

After deliberating for three hours, the jury came in with a verdict for Sumrall. The jurors found that the defendants had all intentionally and maliciously subjected Sumrall to cruel and unusual punishment. They awarded Sumrall $20,000 in compensatory damages, jointly and severally against all defendants. They also awarded $10,000 in punitive damages against Harris, $10,000 in punitive damages against Hart, $3,000 in punitive damages against Taylor and $2,000 in punitive damages against White.

Sumrall was represented by Charles E. Peeler of the Albany, Georgia, law firm Flynn, Peeler & Phillips, LLC.

Case: Sumrall v. Harris, et al., United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Case No. 1:10-cv-0128-WLS-TQL (June 12, 2013).

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Related legal case

Sumrall v. Harris