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$25 Million lawsuit against officials of the Prince William Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center reinstated by unanimous decision of the Virginia Supreme Court
On October 4, 2013, a $25 Million lawsuit against employees and officials of the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center for an alleged violent assault of a prisoner was reinstated by a unanimous decision of the Virginia Supreme Court reversing the Stafford County Circuit Court which dismissed the action.
In its opinion released today, the Virginia Supreme Court stated:
“The allegations of the complaint plainly allege that the jail guards, medical staff, jail supervisors, and the jail board members were all deliberately and intentionally indifferent to the alleged mistreatment of appellant. The complaint further alleges that intentional assaults were committed upon appellant by the guards, and that the medical staff and jail board members acted with actual malice toward appellant in condoning the alleged violations of his civil liberties and due process rights.”
The court stated, “[A]n employee may be held liable for committing intentional torts both within and without the scope of his duties….Likewise, “[a] state employee who acts wantonly, or in a culpable or grossly negligent manner, is not protected. And neither is the employee who acts beyond the scope of his employment, who exceeds his authority and discretion, and who acts individually.”
The plaintiff Kenneth L. Wagner, II, was severely beaten at the Detention Center while he was awaiting trial on minor charges.
The complaint alleges that on January 24, 2006, he was beaten by officials after a short altercation with another inmate and left unattended and unconscious after the assault. When he was found unconscious, his head had swollen to the size of a basketball and dried blood was found in his mouth. Due to the severity of his injuries he was airlifted to a local hospital and then transferred to MCV in Richmond where he remained for nearly 6 months. He left the hospital unable to walk and with very limited functions. Although he was never expected to walk, he has learned to walk, but continues to struggle with severe brain injury and disabilities. His recollection of the events have improved with time.
In the litigation, the defendants denied beating Wagner and claimed that none of the security cameras were working at the time covering areas that would have shown their interaction with the plaintiff. Obviously, video of the incident would have provided an opportunity for the court to objectively review the incident.
Wagner is represented by attorneys Thomas H. Robert and Andrew T. Bodoh of the personal injury and civil rights law firm of Thomas H. Roberts and Associates, P.C., in Richmond, Virginia.
Roberts states: “We all remember the horror of seeing police misconduct in movies like Shawshank Redemption. This decision assures Virginians that civil suits alleging official misconduct will not summarily dismissed simply because the action is against law enforcement. Although many deserve to be in jails or prisons, even there individuals should not be helpless to seek appropriate review when they allege misconduct or abuse against them. A civilized nation should demand no less. The Virginia Supreme Court has assured Virginians that it will not permit allegations of abuse and official misconduct to be summarily thrown out of court. Against the tide of a growing police state, secret proceedings, black-op prisons and Abu Ghraib misconduct, Virginia will remain civilized. My client deserves his day in court. This decision will afford Wagner the opportunity to conduct discovery, to investigate the defense’s claim that none of the security cameras were working that would have provided the opportunity to review this incident and for both sides to have their charges and defenses heard.”
Bodoh states: “There is an old principle that you can’t sue the King. It’s called ‘sovereign immunity.’ Virginia keeps that principal alive, but that principal has its limits. The Court opinion today tells us that government employees in Virginia cannot intentionally harm someone and avoid civil liability. Government employees are not immune for their willful and wanton misconduct or when they are grossly negligent.”
The materials are prepared for information purposes only. The materials are not legal advice. You should not act upon the information without seeking the advice of an attorney. Nothing herein creates an attorney-client relationship.
Thomas H. Roberts, Esq.
Andrew T. Bodoh, Esq.
Thomas H. Roberts & Associates, P.C.
105 S 1st Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
(804) 783-2105 fax