Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$11,000 Recovery for Asthmatic Indiana Prisoner in Denial of Treatment After Cell Block Fire

A combined $11,000 settlement and default judgment was obtained by a pro se asthmatic prisoner in a lawsuit alleging guards were deliberately indifferent to the prisoner’s health during and after a cell block fire at the Indiana State Prison (ISP). One prisoner died during the fire.

Prisoner Dustin E. McGuire sued in relation to events that occurred on April 7, 2017, at ISP when a fire broke out in another prisoner’s cell at around 9:14 p.m.

McGuire, whose medical records reflect he had asthma, could see flames reflecting off the wall in front of his cell as the cellblock filled with thick, black smoke. As he was choking and gagging on the smoke, McGuire yelled for guards Sara Abassi, Promise Blakely and Justin Rodriguez to get him out of his cell. They did not respond to his pleas.

It was not until around 9:45 p.m. that guards started evacuating prisoners to an outside area. McGuire requested Abassi, Blakely and Rodriguez to take him to medical because the smoke combined with his asthma made it difficult for him to breath. They said they were instructed to not call medical or to take prisoners anywhere.

Despite the fact McGuire continued to cough, gag, wheeze, and spit up blood with black phlegm, the guards refused to render aid or call for medical care. After about three and a half to four hours, guards started escorting prisoners back to their cells. McGuire requested guard Jeremy Dykstra to call medical so he could be examined. Dykstra refused that request and escorted McGuire back to his cell.

It was not until April 13, 2017, that McGuire was finally seen by medical staff after several failed attempts to obtain care. By then he had a lung infection, for which he was treated with an antibiotic. McGuire alleged he suffered “chest pain, headaches, coughing, gagging, vomiting, dizziness, blood and black soot being coughed up and an infection” in his lungs.

McGuire, acting pro se, filed his civil rights complaint in federal court on February 2, 2018. He reached a $7,500 settlement with Abassi, Blakely and Rodriguez on December 16, 2020. The district court on March 4, 2021, entered a default judgment against Blakely and awarded McGuire $3,500. See: McGuire v. Neal, USDC, N.D. Indiana, Case No. 3:18-cv-0019. 

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

McGuire v. Neal