Inmate sues jail after being burned

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Anderson man says he has permanent damage to ear

By Lisa King

A former Shelby County inmate has a lawsuit pending in federal court, claiming he was burned with hot water by another inmate.

Robert Medley, a former Lawrenceburg resident who was being housed for Anderson County at the Shelby County Detention Center, filed a federal lawsuit June 7 against both Anderson and Shelby county officials, including judge-executives, jailers and others, claiming that he was burned by another inmate while incarcerated in Shelby County in June 2012.

Medley, who was being held on charges that he manufactured and distributed methamphetamine, claims that the detention center allows inmates to have “hot pots,” electrical devices used to boil water. He claims in the suit that a cellmate, Anthony Howell Jr. of Shelby County, boiled a pot of water and threw it on his face, left ear and left eye.

Howell also is named in the suit.

Medley claims jail staff applied cream to his burns and placed him in isolation for 13 hours. He claims he “begged and pleaded” to be taken to a hospital, but jail officials refused.

The following day he was taken by ambulance to the University of Louisville Burn Center, where he claims he was diagnosed with “severe” injuries, including second-degree burns and damage to his left ear and left eye.

The suit contends that Medley since has lost the use of his left ear and continues to experience bleeding from his left ear. He contends he has decreased vision in his left eye and other disabilities to the left side of his face.

 “The long and short of it is that they took him to the hospital thirteen hours later,” said Medley’s attorney, Josian Passalacqua of  Frankfort. “He was at the hospital for at least a week and pretty much on morphine the whole time. He’s lost complete hearing in his left ear and has visual [problems] in his left eye. The question is, if they had taken him immediately, could they have obviated some of those permanent injuries? Could they have saved that eardrum instead of letting it cook for hours and now it’s gone?”

Shelby County Judge-Executive Rob Rothenburger said he was not at liberty to comment on the case, only that he had passed the matter to Shelby County Attorney Hart Megibben, who said that he had in turn passed it to the Kentucky Association of Counties, which provides legal service to member counties.

“We have assigned a defense counsel to it, but I don’t have any knowledge of the facts of the case,” KACo attorney Tim Sturgill said.

That counsel, Chris Gadansky of Louisville, was not available for comment.

The lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, Easter District of Kentucky, Frankfort Division.

“In analyzing the case, I determined there could be an issue because a city’s not immune, but counties have certain immunities,” he said. “We just felt like there was a likelihood it could have been dismissed in state court.”

The lawsuit requests a trial by jury and that Medley be awarded actual and punitive damages, costs, attorney’s fees and other relief to which he might be entitled.

“I believe his medical bills are in excess of one hundred thousand dollars,” Passalacqua said.

“We’re asking for everything under the sun that’s possible.”

Medley pleaded guilty earlier this year to manufacturing and possessing methamphetamine after being arrested in 2012 for cooking the substance in a residence on Versailles Road. In March he was placed on probation for 5 years and now lives in Franklin County.