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$7,500 Settlement Reached for Assault in California Jail

by David M. Reutter

On June 29, 2021, a lawsuit against California’s San Joaquin County was dismissed by a former detainee at the county jail, after he agreed to accept $7,500 to settle his claim that guards yanked him off the toilet in his cell and beat him without provocation.

The victim of the alleged assault, Ronnie G. Young, wears hearing aids, which he said prevented him from understanding whatever was said to him by a jail guard on January 19, 2016. The guard, identified as Deputy Lee, then reportedly pulled Young from his toilet seat and began a two-minute beat-down, joined by two other guards, Deputy Ledesma and Deputy Martinez, who later alleged that Young had flushed contraband down the toilet.

After Young exhausted his administrative remedies, as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e, he filed suit pro se in federal court for the Eastern District of California under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on December 11, 2017, accusing the county and its guards of using excessive force in violation of his civil rights. His complaint, which was amended twice, further alleged he was denied medical treatment and placed in administrative segregation following the beating.

While in segregation, Young asked another guard, Sgt. S. Williams, to be provided medical treatment, but his requests were allegedly denied. He did not receive medical treatment for three days, he said, until he hit the emergency button and claimed he had a seizure on January 22, 2016. Young’s complaint alleged that he suffered two broken ribs, contusions, and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the “unwarranted attack” upon him.

The Court, however, examined jail medical records, which showed Young was checked out 15 minutes after the alleged assault. So on November 9, 2020, it dismissed the claim against Williams for deliberate indifference to the detainee’s medical needs. See: Young v. Lee, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86103 (E.D. Cal.).

Young filed an appeal to that decision, but since it was not final—the Court had given him leave to amend his complaint against Williams—the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed it on January 27, 2021. See: Young v. Lee, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 2310 (9th Cir.).

The case then proceeded on Young’s excessive force claim against Lee and two other guards, with the Court setting a settlement conference for April 29, 2021. That was when the parties reached their agreement, paying $7,500 to Young—who was still proceeding pro se—to settle all of his claims. See: Young v Lee, USDC (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:17-cv-02596. 

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Related legal case

Young v Lee