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Former Missouri Jail Prisoner Ordered to Repay $1.3 Million Settlement for Faking Injuries But Whereabouts Unknown

On October 17, 2019 a former Missouri prisoner accused of faking injuries while in Boone County Jail was ordered to repay almost $1.3 million from a settlement in which he had accused deputies of using excessive force.

In October 2015, after an altercation in the dinner line at the jail, Derrick Houston was restrained by four deputies and placed in solitary. When Houston felt neck pain and tingling discomfort throughout his body, his requests for medical attention were repeatedly denied by the jailers. Five days later, after his condition worsened, he was finally taken to the hospital where doctors discovered that Houston had a fractured vertebrae in his neck.

Houston filed suit in July 2016, claiming that the lack of medical attention caused permanent paralysis from the waist down. While confined to a wheelchair, Houston testified at a deposition in March 2017 that he wanted to stand up and walk, saying, “I wish I could. I really wish I could man.”

Boone County Sheriff Dewayne Casey denied that his deputies were responsible. Carey stated that jailers reported Houston fell down in solitary; he also noted that Houston had a history of resisting commands and had spent time in prison for violent offenses. Nevertheless, in exchange for a $2 million settlement from the Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund (MOPERM), the county’s insurer, Houston agreed to drop the lawsuit and not divulge particulars of the case.

Five days after Houston collected his settlement money, the Columbia Police Department was called to a disturbance at a hotel involving Houston. Officers’ body cameras caught Houston carrying his possessions and walking away completely unassisted. The body-cam footage prompted Boone County officials to petition the district court to reopen Houston’s case, alleging both Houston and his lawyers, from the Kansas City law firm Edelman & Thompson, defrauded the county. After considering the county’s claims, Judge Willie Epps, granted the motion to set the judgment aside.

“Plaintiff lied while under oath and provided false or misleading information ... [and] misrepresented the facts to the opposing party and to the Court,” Epps concluded.

Boone County and MOPERM requested an order from the court to hold Edelman & Thompson liable for the entire settlement amount, as well as the county’s court costs and expenses. The law firm responded by filing suit against MOPERM in April 2018, alleging defamation, abuse of process and malicious prosecution.

In August 2019, as both parties were preparing to present evidence at a bench trial, MOPERM withdrew its claim against Edelman and Thompson. In the settlement agreement, MOPERM Executive Director Larry Weber stated the law firm “acted as ethical and vigorous advocates ... [and were] not participants in, or complicit in any misrepresentation” and that MOPERM would only pursue relief from Derrick Houston.

For their part, Edelman and Thompson agreed to dismiss their suit against MOPERM and repay $100,000 of the $730,000 they received in attorney’s fees from Houston’s settlement.

Meanwhile, all attempts by the court to contact Houston have been unsuccessful. Letters sent to Houston’s home in Glasgow, Maryland, have been returned and marked undelivered. His whereabouts are currently unknown. See: Houston v. City. of Boone, 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 174609. 


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Related legal case

Houston v. City. of Boone