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Former Rikers Island Prisoner Awarded $500,000 Plus Attorney Fees

by Dale Chappell

On August 6, 2018, a New York federal district court awarded a former Rikers Island jail prisoner $500,000 in damages after he was assaulted by a police officer and another prisoner.

Former NYPD officer Jamel Brown and Rikers prisoner Christopher McFadden were ordered by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to pay the damages to Tyson Poulos for injuries they inflicted on him in separate attacks in 2013. They had failed to appear in court to defend themselves.

The damages awarded against Brown stemmed from an incident at the Kings County Jail where Brown, unprovoked, punched Poulos in the head and knocked him unconscious after he kept requesting healthcare and a more private bathroom. Brown then purposely delayed medical treatment, the court found, and blocked efforts to transport Poulos to a hospital.

The district court found that Brown entered Poulos’ cell “with intent to harm” and with “evil motive or intent.” Finding that such actions by police officers have typically resulted in awards of between $50,000 to $100,000, the court awarded Poulos $100,000 in compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages against Brown. The court also ordered him to pay almost $22,000 in Poulos’ attorney fees.

The damages against McFadden were higher, the court said, because Poulos had to undergo surgery after McFadden broke his jaw during an attack at Rikers Island while Poulos was sleeping. The injuries left him with permanent scarring and nerve damage.

The district court said a “substantial award” was called for, and ordered McFadden to pay $325,000 in compensatory damages – though it’s unlikely he has the ability to do so. See: Poulos v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 1:14-cv-03023-LTS-BCM; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132179. 

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Related legal case

Poulos v. City of New York