District Court Says Inmate's Claim Against Prison Operators May Proceed

   District Court Says Inmate's Claim Against Prison Operators May Proceed

Court Holds Pre-Lawsuit Administrative Claim Filing Requirements Do Not Apply
to Tort Claims Against Private Parties.

PR Newswire

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22, 2013

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Asserting that their inmate-client,
Gregory Edison, was negligently exposed to a terminal and deadly form of
Valley Fever, Los Angeles-based attorneys, Jason Feldman and Ian Wallach,
prevailed in court on Friday, February 22, 2013, when the court held that the
case of Edison v. GEO Group, Inc. et al.(EDCA 1:12-cv-02026) could proceed.

The case before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of
California, brought by an inmate housed at the Taft Correctional Facility in
Taft, California, alleges that the subcontractors who operated the prison, The
GEO Group, Inc. ("GEO") and Management and Training Corporation ("MTC"),
failed to protect Mr. Edison from acquiring the terminal form of
coccidiodomycosis (aka "Valley Fever"). 

GEO and MTC moved to dismiss the case--asserting that the Plaintiff failed to
exhaust the administrative remedy filing requirements normally asserted by
Governmental entities. Feldman and Wallach countered that such requirements
do not apply to tort claims against private entities.

United States Senior District Judge Anthony W. Ishii upheld the findings of
Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston, who had explained that there was no
statutory authority supporting Defendants' argument that they were permitted
to impose an administrative remedy that must be exhausted before an inmate may
file a complaint raising state tort claims.

The Defendant corporations cited Wright v. State of California, 122
Cal.App.4th 659 (Cal.Ct.App. 2004), as authority for the proposition that an
inmate raising a state-law claim must exhaust administrative remedies before
suing them. The Court disagreed, by stating "Neither GEO nor MTC are
administrative tribunals. Thus, there is no other tribunal involved whose
jurisdiction is an impediment to this Court's authority. Likewise, the instant
matter does not concern remedies provided by an administrative agency, but
instead, a remedial scheme imposed by private corporations." The Court further
stated "There are statutorily-mandated procedures in place for tort claims (28
CFR part 543, subpart C) . . .. Coupled with 28 CFR § 542.10's explicit
instruction that '…the Bureau will refer the inmate to the appropriate
statutorily-mandated procedures,' there can be no serious argument that tort
claims brought against the [Bureau of Prisons] must be pursued according to
the four-part process as a prerequisite to filing suit." The ruling also
concluded its ruling remarks, with "Therefore, because 28 CFR § 542.10 does
not require a federal prisoner placed in a federal prison to exhaust a tort
claim through the four-part administrative remedy program, there is no legal
footing for the proposition that a federal prisoner placed in a non-federal
facility, must."

"This is a great win for inmates whose terminal illnesses could have been
prevented," said attorney Wallach, "All these prisoners want is their day in
court. Wallach went on to say, "These rulings have paved the way for that
possibility."

Moreover, attorney Jason Feldman asserts, "Society has not yet arrived at the
era when corporate immunity is stronger than sovereign immunity. These are
private, for-profit companies asking the court to give them broader
protections than even those available to the government," added Feldman.
Feldman further explained that GEOs and MTC's position would have, in essence,
created a 20-day statute of limitations for tort claims making it virtually
impossible for anyone to bring a tort claim against a private company running
a federal prison. Wallach further stated, "This ruling could have broad
implications for private companies that assume government functions."

Another matter with very similar claims and defenses--Fekrat v. GEO Group,
Inc. et al., (EDCA 1:12-cv-01940) is also pending before the Eastern District
of California, and it is anticipated that a similar order will imminently be
issued by the court.

Feldman and Wallach are available for comment by contacting their press
relations manager. A copy of the court ruling is available upon request.

SOURCE Feldman & Wallach

Contact: Cherie Kerr, +1-714-550-9900, cell: +1-714-271-2140,
cherie@kerrpr-execuprov.com
 
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