INDIANAPOLIS (March 21, 2014) – An inmate with an amputated leg sued the Tippecanoe County sheriff, saying he broke his prosthesis and contracted MRSA because jail officials refused to move him to a lower bunk.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the federal lawsuit Thursday against Sheriff Tracy Brown. The ACLU said the jail violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal Rehabilitation Act and a state law saying that the sheriff of a county must “take care of the county jail and prisoners there.”
Anthony Overla, 28, is serving a term for failing to register as a sex offender. He was booked at the Tippecanoe County Jail in February 2013. Overla, who has a prosthesis and whose right leg was amputated below the knee years ago, said he was assigned an upper bunk six feet off the ground that required him to jump down to reach the floor. The repeated jumps eventually damaged the prosthesis, the lawsuit said.
“On numerous occasions (Overla) complained to jail personnel about being placed on the top bunk. However, he was not moved to a lower bunk,” the complaint said.
The damage to his prosthesis, liner and gel pack caused pain, burning and discomfort. It eventually led to a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. Overla continued to use his broken prosthesis because the jail didn’t repair it or provide him with crutches or a wheelchair, the lawsuit said. Overla said the infection developed as a result of inadequate medical treatment. At one point, a doctor at the jail told him there was nothing he could do and gave him Tylenol.
Overla also said there were no railings in the shower, causing him to fall on multiple occasions, the lawsuit said. He said he requested that jail staff install a bar in the shower stall but no action was taken.
Overla said he wrote two letters about the situation and submitted an informal grievance form about his injury. He never heard back from the jail, the lawsuit said. When he asked about the status of his complaint, jail staff said it was “not grievable.” He was not given a formal grievance form despite requesting one, he said.
On Sept. 19, 2013, Overla was scheduled to receive a call from the ACLU about his situation. Jail Captain Denise Saxton told him the jail “did not have to abide by the ADA” and suggested he wouldn’t win his case because “no judge will side with an inmate,” the lawsuit said.
Overla was eventually transferred to the Plainfield Correctional facility, where he was treated and his prosthesis repaired.