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Former inmate injured in jail files lawsuit against the county

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - Updated: 10:31 AM

By NICOLE ANTONUCCI

nicole.antonucci@recordernews.com

FONDA -- A former Montgomery County jail inmate is suing the county and jail officials for negligence, claiming jail officials ignored concerns about the safety of his cell resulting in his falling and breaking his hip.

Robert Staley, who has only one leg, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Albany on July 18. He states that while he was given a jail cell with a handicapped-accessible shower, it lacked a shower curtain, which flooded his jail cell. Staley, who was confined to a wheelchair while incarcerated, said he was not able to get the wheelchair close enough to the shower without it getting wet and requests for help were repeatedly ignored.

He entered the jail on forgery charges on Jan. 21. On March 5, the suit alleges, while hopping on his good leg from the shower to his wheelchair, he slipped on water and broke his hip above his amputated leg.

"His complaints to medical staff were routinely ignored and/or refused, in that Mr. Staley was informed that he could handle the transfers on his own," the suit states. "Corrections officers who witnessed his struggles informed Mr. Staley that they were instructed by medical staff not to help him."

Repeated calls for comment from Staley's attorney Elmer Robert Keach were not returned.

The suit names Montgomery County, Sheriff Michael Amato, jail administrator Michael Franko and members of the jail medical staff as defendants.

Montgomery County attorney Douglas Landon said he knew about the lawsuit but he has yet to see it.

"To my knowledge the county has yet to be served," Landon said. "If and when the county is served, it will take appropriate measures to defend itself in this matter. At this time I decline to comment any further."

Staley is seeking compensatory damages from all the defendants. However, he is only seeking punitive damages from Amato and the county jail officials.

In the lawsuit Staley claims his constitutional rights were violated because the county, Amato and jail staff were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs. This also violates the 8th Amendment, which precludes officials from willfully denying medical treatment to a detainee with serious medical needs, the lawsuit reads. Staley also claims they violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to provide an appropriate handicapped shower, a shower curtain and assistance while transferring from a wheelchair to the shower.

According to the lawsuit, Staley's left leg was amputated above the knee due to complications from diabetes. He was able to walk using a prosthetic, but had to use a wheelchair in jail because the use of the prosthetic was not allowed.

in order to use the handicapped-accessible shower provided to him, Staley had to transfer by hopping on one leg to a shower stool, which he states was difficult due to other medical conditions.

The only grab bar was outside the shower, which had no curtain. This resulted in the cell flooding every time he took a shower. He also had to push his wheelchair farther away to prevent it from getting wet.

Stale repeatedly expressed his concerns during the next few weeks, the suit reads. Jail nurses allegedly determined he did not need help, after watching him transfer under dry conditions and with the wheelchair close by.

Finally, on March 5, he slipped in water and fell, breaking the hip above his amputated leg. He required extensive surgery as a result, the suit reads.

"Prior to this incident, Mr. Staley was able to walk with a prosthetic limb," the suit reads. "However, the severe injuries he suffered in the Montgomery County Jail have potentially ended his ability to walk, and may require him to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair."

Staley blames the county for failing to enact appropriate written policies and employee training regarding disability accommodations and medical needs for disable detainees, which resulted in negligence and indifference.

     

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