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Paralyzed former Sevier County inmate files $225 million lawsuit

11:17 AM, May 20, 2012   |    comments
Ronald McDaniel
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A former Sevier County inmate who says he is now paralyzed after a beating in the jail last summer is suing the county, the sheriff and at least 14 other jail officers and medical workers for alleged federal civil rights violations.

Ronald McDaniel, who is now a quadriplegic and lives in a long-term care facility in Kingsport, filed the $225 million lawsuit in federal court April 30. He is asking for a jury trial.

In the suit, he is asking for $25 million, plus $50 million in punitive damages, for each of the three counts.

The suit alleges his federal constitutional rights were violated because he was not protected from the attacks and did not receive proper medical care after the attacks. He also claims the county and sheriff failed in their duties by either having insufficient policies and procedures or not following them properly.

The suit stems from McDaniel's stay in jail last summer. He was arrested on June 1, 2011, on DUI charges and violation of the implied consent law.

According to the suit, McDaniel asked repeatedly to make a phone call but was denied. After threatening to do so, he eventually activated the sprinklers in his cell, according to the suit, which led officers to beat him and use mace. He was then placed in isolation for 72 hours.

Then, the suit claims that, although McDaniel asked not to be placed in the open dorm cell area, he was placed in a cell with an inmate with a known history of violence.

Almost immediately, that inmate pulled McDaniel off the top bunk onto the concrete floor, where he was kicked and struck repeatedly by several inmates, according to the suit.

McDaniel eventually crawled underneath the bottom bunk, where he discovered he could not move his legs and called for help. The suit claims his cries were repeatedly ignored by jail officers until another inmate called for help from the staff.

When officers and a medical worker did arrive, McDaniel claims he was moved, making his injuries worse, and not believed. The medical worker declared he was "faking it" and was medically "OK," according to the suit.

McDaniel also claims that, as part of the examination, the medical worker poked him with sharp objects and held a lighter flame to his foot to see if he would react. He did not, but did plead with the worker to not do so.

The group then attempted to pull McDaniel back onto his upper bunk before deciding to place him on a mattress on the floor for the entire night, the suit states.

Several officers and medical workers saw his condition throughout the night and did nothing until the head nurse arrived the next morning, according to the suit. Eventually, he was transported to LeConte Medical Center.

There, emergency room personnel determined McDaniel had a broken neck, according to the suit, and he was flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery to stabilize his cervical spine.

"Plaintiff virtually has no movement below his shoulders," the suit states. "He is now confined to a long-term care skilled facility in Kingsport, Tennessee, and will never regain the use of his limbs. he will forever be bedridden and dependent on continuous care. Further, he has been re-hospitalized in an acute care facility on several occasions for treatment of complications related to the injuries caused by the defendants."

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