Local News

Story published: 12-03-2013 • Print ArticleE-mail Story to a Friend

Detention Center lawsuit dismissed

By Karen Sells
Assistant Editor

A lawsuit related to the care provided in the Washington County Detention Center has been dismissed, interim County Attorney Keith Bowers told commissioners during their November meeting.

Corey Fernando Russell, an inmate in the WCDC, filed a civil rights complaint against Sheriff Ed Graybeal, Jail Administrator Brenda Downes and WCDC Head Nurse Emily Mensch for damages he suffered during a June 22 carbon monoxide leak from a gas-powered water heater.

Fifty-one inmates were evacuated from two cells once the source of the effects on the inmates’ health was identified.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer dismissed the case for Russell’s failure to state a claim.

Greer’s memorandum states most of Russell’s claims are expressly premised upon a theory of negligence in the defendants’ allowing the natural gas leak to occur or in failing to discover and address it earlier, both of which fail to state a claim for constitutional deprivation.

“As plaintiff does not allege that these defendants knew about the gas leak or plaintiff’s or other inmate’s physical symptoms, there is nothing from which to conclude that these defendants condoned any subordinate’s failure to act on the environmental hazard caused by the leak,” Greer writes.

According to the memorandum, the deliberate indifference aspect of the claim also falters because Russell did not name as defendants the officers and nurses he says ignored his requests for help.

The court concludes that Russell’s removal from the area where the carbon monoxide had collected was a reasonable step to take to alleviate the risk posed by possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

Due to Russell’s failure the state claims against Graybeal, Downes and Mensch, the case was dismissed in its entirety against all named defendants.

Sixteen carbon monoxide detectors have since been installed throughout the WCDC, which can be monitored at all times by jail staff.