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$60,000 settlement reached in prisoner's case against officer

by Christopher Zoukis

A man suffering from schizophrenia at Tangipahoa Parish Jail (TPJ) in Louisiana, who was not always provided with necessary medications and was attacked and injured by other detainees through staff indifference, received a $60,000 settlement in response to his federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and civil rights lawsuit.

     Roger Mason was imprisoned at the TPJ for about four months, from August 18, 2009, to January 26, 2010. In that time, he only occasionally received his medications to stabilize his mental state. Because guards and staff were neglectful of his health and welfare, Mason suffered severe injuries to his arm and back and broken ribs when he was assaulted by other detainees. Mason was segregated for 23 hours a day, contributing to his transition into full psychosis, leaving him unable to meaningfully communicate. His physical injuries were only recognized during a routine medical exam performed upon his transfer to a psychiatric facility on January 26, 2010.

     On January 24, 2011, Mason, through his niece Valerie Robertson, filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against jail nurse Sean Sweeney, Captain Joyce Jackson, Warden Dennis Wheat, Sheriff Daniel Edwards, Administrator Stuart Murphy and the Tangipahoa Parish Council.

      He claimed the defendants violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. He argued that their failure to provide adequate medical care was negligent, and that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference and lacked accommodation toward his medical needs.

     Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown dismissed Tangipahoa Parish Council from the case in May 2011, and in August the defendants filed a third-party complaint against the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitality (DHH), DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein, Deputy Secretary Kathy Kliebert and Interim Assistant Secretary Anthony H. Speier, Ph.D. The defendants claimed that it wasn’t TPJ’s responsibility to provide medical treatment; rather it was the DHH that failed to provide the necessary care for Mason. Therefore, they argued, DHH should contribute to any damages assessed.

 A settlement was reached on May 8, 2012, in which the defendants agreed to pay $60,000 and would implement specific procedures if Mason was to return to the jail within four years.

 See: Mason v. Tangipahoa Parish Council, et al., United Stated District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Case No. 2:11-cv-00157-NJB-SS (May 8, 2012)

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Related legal case

Mason v. Tangipahoa Parish Council, et al., United Stated District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana