Locked Up In Litigation

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's your tax money at work - hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to defend the county against what some may consider outlandish and frivolous lawsuits - jail inmates asking for special shoes, food and big money for their reputations being ruined. Some jail inmates may be costing you more than you can imagine.

Thousands of people are booked into and held at the Sedgwick County Jail every year. Sedgwick County counselor Rich Euson says every year, dozens of inmates file lawsuits and claims against the jail, the sheriff and the county in hopes of getting rich.

"There are some - more the claims than the lawsuits - where they are asking for millions of dollars. There's just no legal justification for it," Euson said.

We dug into the county's records and found claims and lawsuits for 2008 through 2011. Of those, 50 were filed by jail inmates who were asking for a total of $168 million.

Inmate Mark Agnew asked to be released from jail immediately. Moved to another county or into work release, he also asked for the jail to comply with his requested diet and to receive special shoes - he says by order of his doctor. A judge denied the petition and dismissed the case.

Inmate Clemente Garcia sued for medical damages claiming he wasn't treated by doctors at the jail for a broken nose. He asked for a total $25 million. The judge called the lawsuit frivolous or malicious and the case dismissed.

Kali Nye filed a $10,000 claim against the county alleging his reputation had been damage when he was arrested at work on an outstanding bench warrant.. Again, that case was dismissed - but not until the county's legal staff put in thousands of dollars worth of work in research.

In three years, the lawsuits and claims filed by inmates cost taxpayers $473,554 - not in settlements but in time put in by county counselors researching. A majority of the cases get dismissed.

Taxpayers have differing opinions on how the county is spending their money in defending these lawsuits.

"If they have a lawsuit that's bearing then that's fine, but if they are doing it just because they are bored it's a real waste of our money," taxpayer Mary Rese said.

"You would think they have a filtering system for some things before they get to the courthouse. It's a waste of time and money," taxpayer Kristena Hoover said.

"If you can prove that's an actual medical condition and the jail ignored that, it's a medical issue. They shouldn't ignore things like that," taxpayer Matt Lake said.

Not all inmate cases are dismissed. We found several that were taken to court.. The county paid out almost $25,000 between 2008 and 2011.

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