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$2,500 Settlement in Failure to Protect Prisoners During Jail Fire in Indiana

A pretrial detainee received a $2,500 settlement in a civil rights action alleging jail officials failed to evacuate detainees during a fire and did not treat their injuries.

The lawsuit stemmed from a fire in a cellblock at Indiana’s Allen County Jail on November 20, 2017. Sheriff David Gladieux said detainees used an electrical socket to ignite a piece of spice paper, exposing detainees, guards and a nurse to smoke containing the opioid painkiller fentanyl.

A civil rights complaint filed by detainee Dorrion Jefferson alleged that as the cellblock filled with smoke, guards locked the prisoners in their cells. As the fire filled the area with smoke, the detainees were forced to breathe the smoke that was “allegedly contaminated with dangerous toxic chemicals” for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, guards, nurses, and a dog handler were evacuated from the jail and treated at a hospital with the overdose antidote Narcan.

The detainees were released from their cells “after the fire was extinguished and the smoke cleared.”

Sheriff Gladieux, “in order to punish and humiliate” the prisoners, ordered a group strip search of the 28 detainees in the cellblock. Their property — which included legal materials, family letters and pictures, clothing, and hygiene products— was confiscated and never returned. They were denied medical care.

Represented by Fort Wayne attorneys David C. Frank and Christopher C. Myers, a suit was filed on November 9, 2018. The $2,500 settlement was inclusive of attorney fees and was reached on August 25, 2019.

See: Jefferson v. Gladieux, Allen County, Indiana Superior Court, Case No. 02D09-1811-CT-00679

Additional source: WANE-TV           

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Related legal case

Jefferson v. Gladieux, Allen County, Indiana Superior Court