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North Carolina Prisoner Recovers $500 for Injuries in Shower Slip and Fall

On December 7, 2022, North Carolina prisoner Vinson Shane Hill prevailed in a negligence tort claim he filed with the state Industrial Commission (NCIC) over an injury he suffered while incarcerated at Scotland Correctional Institution in July 2019.

Hill, who has difficulty walking due to a prior auto accident, was attempting to use a shower. But he was handcuffed behind his back at the time, and guards escorting him did not properly assist him. A rubber floor mat that was usually in the shower was missing that day. Unsurprisingly, he slipped and fell in soapy water on the floor, leaving him with pain to his right side, hip, shoulder and side of his head, he testified before NCIC.

Hill added that prison medical staff gave him nothing more than ibuprofen. He also stated the escorting guards incorrectly said he fell outside the shower, when he fell inside. Another prisoner who witnessed the incident testified on Hill’s behalf.

An NCIC deputy commissioner who heard the case found Hill’s testimony was credible and “presented sufficient competent evidence to establish the essential elements of a negligence claim.” Specifically, the guards were found negligent for “failing to properly assist [Hill], who was handcuffed behind his back, getting into a shower that had soapy water on the floor with no shower mat present, which resulted in [his] slip and fall.” Hill’s injuries were foreseeable and avoidable had prison staff acted with reasonable caution.

NCIC ruled that Hill had proven the required elements of a negligence claim: 1) that prison staff had a duty to him; 2) that they breached that duty; 3) that an injury was sustained; and 4) that the injury was a proximate result of the breach of duty. Further, the guards were acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the incident. As a result, Hill was awarded $500 in general damages; additionally, the state Department of Public Safety was ordered to pay $120 in legal costs he ran up.

Under N.C. Gov. Stat.§ 143-291(a), NCIC has jurisdiction over tort claims filed against state agencies and departments. A month after the ruling, when Hill contacted PLN to provide information about this case, he still had not received the damages awarded by NCIC. See: Hill v. N. C. Dep’t of Pub. Safety, NCIC, I.C. No. TA-28332.  

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Related legal case

Hill v. N. C. Dep’t of Pub. Safety