Who Is Responsible If I Was Injured in Jail Due to Unsafe Conditions?

penitentiary_jail_police_crime-1024x768Jails are supposed to be safe for the people in them and can’t expose inmates to unnecessary risk of injury. Even though prisons are not required to be legally comfortable, they must still provide safe living conditions. If someone gets hurt because of unsafe conditions in jail, they can seek relief from the county. This relief may come in different forms, but the inmate must follow administrative procedures outlined in the jail handbook or other administrative guides before filing a lawsuit.

Korey Bossier had water running through his jail cell from a nearby shower that he slipped on and injured himself. As a result, he filed a lawsuit against the Lafayette parish sheriff and jail for a tort action. At the trial court, the jail claimed the handbook had specific administrative remedies for grievances that Bossier did not undertake. The trial court threw out the case because Bossier did not follow specific administrative procedures outlined in the jail handbook before filing the lawsuit. Bossier appealed to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to review his case. 

In his appeal, Bossier argued the jail handbook does not have any section on administrative steps for an inmate to take when submitting a tort action or grievance. The only language in the grievance handbook does not clearly state any proscribed administrative remedies. The jail read the same section of the handbook as requiring a grievance report to be filed before any tort action can occur in a state court. The appeals court reviewed the trial court’s decision to see if the lower court correctly applied the law.

When ruling on that trial court granting the jail’s “dilatory exception of prematurity,” the appeals court was required to determine if the handbook provided an administrative remedy for inmates to follow before filing their lawsuits. Ngo v. Estes.  If the court found a remedy in the handbook, then Bossier would have to show that he had exhausted that remedy before filing his lawsuit. Therefore, the court reviewed the specific language of the handbook to determine if it provided a remedy. 

In this case, the appeals court read the handbook and found the language the jail claimed provided an administrative remedy did not cover Bossier’s injury claim. The appeals court considered the only section on grievances in the handbook. They determined that this section only dealt with inmate grievances with guards, no personal injury claims. By reading the handbook in a manner as any normal citizen would, the court found the handbook did not provide for an administrative remedy. In doing so, it overturned the trial court’s decision and sent the case back for further trial proceedings. 

When injured in jail or on the job, extra administrative steps may need to be taken before you can recover for your injury. Every employer and jailhouse may have heaps of handbooks, administrative guidelines, or codes of conduct that could provide for a designated path to follow for recovery. While the appeals court agreed with the injured party in this case, the handbooks may sometimes be ambiguous. A skilled attorney can help you determine what needs to get done to get your relief. 

Additional Sources: Cheron v. LCS Corrections Servs.

Written By Berniard Law Firm Writer: Ethan W. Seitz

Additional Berniard Law stories on dilatory exceptions of prematurity:What does a “dilatory exception of prematurity” mean for my workplace injury claim?

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