Bologna Sandwich Case – More Than Meats the Eye

For decades people have spread false or half-true stories about lawsuits.  Here is the latest one I heard the other day on a talk radio show:

A prisoner filed a $3M lawsuit alleging that a prison guard forced him to rub his bologna sandwich on his (the prisoner’s) penis and then forced the prisoner to eat it.   This is offered as yet another example of a litigation system run amok.

True?  In part.  Yes, a prisoner has filed a $3M civil rights lawsuit, seeking $1M in compensatory damages and the balance in punitive damages.  It is true that it is alleged that two deputies made a prisoner rub a bologna sandwich against his penis.  

But The Columbus Dispatch reports that the plaintiff is a different prisoner who had been given the sandwich by the deputies after it had been rubbed against the penis.  The deputies also allegedly knew that the "rubbing" prisoner  was in the medical seclusion ward with the HIV virus and Hepatitis C. One of the deputies has admitted to taking a photograph of some portion of this incident on his cell phone.

Both deputies have been fired.

Now, unless the plaintiff contracted either disease I sincerely doubt that this case is worth $1M in compensatory damages.  And none of the allegations may be true – I don’t know.

But no one can look at the allegations of this lawsuit and say it is much ado about nothing.  If true, the conduct by the deputies is outrageous.   I do not know enough about civil rights litigation to be able to comment of the legal merits of the allegations against the other defendants, but I don’t think that the talk radio host I was listening to knew much about civil rights law either.

So, when you are at a party and someone attempts to give this story as another example of how the civil litigation system is broken, tell them the rest of the story.