Cook County to Pay $4.75 Million After Failing to Accommodate Inmate’s Disability
Cook Co. Jail’s placement of inmate with seizure disorder in top bunk contrary to doctor’s order results in severe brain injuries, loss of vision and permanent cognitive disabilities
(Chicago, November 15, 2017) Today, Cook County agreed to pay $4.75 million to compensate Michael Borys for severe injuries he sustained in Cook County Jail. The payment arises from the settlement of a lawsuit brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act by Equip for Equality and Dvorak Law Offices.
In October 2014, Michael had a seizure and fell from a top bunk in a Cook County Jail dorm resulting in a permanent traumatic brain injury and complete loss of vision in one eye. Michael endured two brain surgeries and a third surgery from skull fracture-related sinus infections.
But Michael should never have been in that top bunk. With a history of a seizure disorder, the County doctor ordered that Michael be placed in a lower bunk. Tragically, the County did not communicate that mandate to jail staff for two days, by which point Michael was in a coma in the hospital.
Investigation over the course of the case revealed that less than 1% of all medical orders for lower bunks were communicated to correctional staff on a timely basis. Of 1,423 medical lower bunk alerts in 2014 up until the date of Michael’s injury, only 0.1% of the alerts were transferred within an hour, and only 0.6% were transferred within eight hours. The average delay in communication of these health alerts was 13.7 days.
Michael’s Story: Prior to these events, Michael spent six years battling brain cancer. In 2013, he ended chemotherapy. In 2014, Michael was beginning to get his life back. His seizures, which had previously occurred multiple times daily, were under control and he was working on regaining his driver’s license. He had a girlfriend and was applying for jobs. What happened next would change his life forever.
In October 2014, Michael was arrested on a misdemeanor offense and booked into Cook County Jail. What should have been a short stay turned into a life shattering event. Despite being identified during the intake process as having a seizure disorder and requiring a bottom bunk for safety, Cook County Jail provided Michael with no anti-seizure medication and assigned him a top bunk. On his first night in the bunk, Michael experienced a seizure so violent that he fell out of bed and landed on his head, fracturing his skull.
Later investigation of the Jail’s intake process found that his fall was due to a failure in communication between the doctors administering his health screening and the jail staff who assigned bunks. The investigation discovered there was no standardized medical procedure to keep individuals with seizures safe. In fact, despite knowing his medical background, the Jail did not provide Michael with anti-seizure medication. While doctors did note that Michael required a bottom bunk, that alert was not communicated to the jail for 2 days. By that time, it was too late.
“This tragic event was entirely avoidable. Under the County’s former system, these inexcusable communication delays were the norm. They were an inevitable and tragic result of an unnecessarily antiquated and inefficient system,” said attorney Richard Dvorak of Dvorak Law Offices, LCC.
“Settlement funds will be placed into a trust so that Michael has the supports he needs throughout his life,” said Equip for Equality Senior Attorney Amanda Antholt. “In addition to fairly compensating Michael for his injuries, we hope this settlement sends a message that Cook County Jail and other correctional facilities must provide accommodations to ensure that inmates with disabilities remain safe.”
About Equip for Equality:
Established in 1985, Equip for Equality is a private, nonprofit organization that advances the human and civil rights of children and adults with disabilities in Illinois. The organization is the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy System for the State of Illinois and has broad federal and state statutory powers to carry out its responsibilities. Equip for Equality serves as a legal advocate for people with disabilities, an independent watchdog over the public and private service systems, and advocates for public policy reforms.
About Dvorak Law Offices, LLC:
Dvorak Law Offices, LLC is a successful civil rights firm that has obtained millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts on behalf its clients, and has obtained significant “not guilty” verdicts in serious criminal matters, including the reversal of convictions on appeal. Dvorak Law Offices, LLC, provides the comprehensive criminal defense experience that is needed to defend your rights on all fronts, including the ability to do criminal appeals and ancillary civil rights cases. Led by principal attorney Richard Dvorak, we have the experience, skill and proven track record to defend your rights at any stage of the criminal process.
Last updated: November 15, 2017