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Dismissal of Personal Injury Claim for Damages from Malfunctioning Jail Gate Upheld

The Mississippi Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a visitor’s claim for damages that resulted from a malfunctioning gate at a county jail.

The August 23, 2016 ruling upheld the dismissal of Ladonna Ware’s claim. Ware alleged that while delivering a package for her incarcerated husband in a secure area of the Adams County Correctional Center in August 2010, an electronically-controlled gate closed on her leg, resulting in injuries. Ware sued the county, the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Charles R. Mayfield, Jr. in his official capacity.

The trial court entertained the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, in which they argued the claims were barred by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Finding there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether the gate operator’s actions in shutting the gate fell below the threshold of reckless disregard, the court granted summary judgment. Ware appealed.

Noting that the MTCA provides immunity for “claims [a]rising out of the acts by [the county’s] employees engaged in the performance of duties relating to police protection unless the employee acted in reckless disregard of the safety and well-being of any person not engaged in criminal activity at the time of the injury,” the Court of Appeals analyzed whether the gate operator’s actions were in reckless disregard of Ware’s safety. The appellate court found that as a matter of law, the gate operator did not act in reckless disregard.

Specifically, the appellate court noted that “Deputy [Fran] Christie did not see that Ware’s leg had not cleared the gate when she reset it. There is no evidence that Deputy Christie intended to close the gate on Ware. To the contrary, the evidence demonstrates that Deputy Christie accidentally closed Ware’s leg in the gate when she tried to reset it.” See: Ware v. Adams County, Mississippi, 199 So.3d 1257 (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). 

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Related legal case

Ware v. Adams County, Mississippi