A mattress lawsuit, which we reported back in September, has finally ended with the judge awarding the complainant a lot less than the money he is expecting….
From the Wisconsin State Journal:
A federal judge on Tuesday slashed a jury award to a state prison inmate from nearly $300,000 to just under $30,000, calling the amount granted to a prisoner forced to sleep on a wet mattress as “excessive.”
Reggie Townsend, 29, of Milwaukee, is serving a 23-year prison sentence for first-degree reckless homicide in connection to a drive-by shooting that killed an 11-year-old girl in 2000. He sued the state and New Lisbon Correctional Institution prison guard Jerry Allen over having to sleep on a wet and moldy mattress and was awarded $295,000 by a jury in September.
The jury found that the conditions Townsend was forced to live under for nearly two months while in a punitive lockup denied him “the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities.”
Townsend was being punished for impeding an investigation into a prison riot in 2004.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb declined to throw out the verdict entirely, saying she would be disregarding the law of the case if she granted a motion by doing so. But she wrote in a decision issued Tuesday that she agreed the punitive damages awarded by the jury were too high in light of the evidence.
“In this case, (Townsend) does not even attempt to argue that nearly $300,000 is needed to punish (Allen) or deter him or other correctional officers from engaging in similar conduct in the future,” Crabb wrote. Because Townsend slept on the mattress for 59 days, she wrote, the award would amount to a sanction to the state of $5,000 per day for disregarding what amounted to one verbal complaint and possibly a written complaint from Townsend to Allen about the mattress.
Crabb said that Townsend has until Feb. 24 to tell her whether he will accept $29,500 in punitive damages or seek a new trial on damages.