Erie County has agreed to pay more than $1 million to settle claims that corrections officers at the county prison beat a 52-year-old man so severely he eventually sustained strokes, kidney failure and a collapsed or punctured lung.
According to attorneys for Patrick Haight, the county agreed to settle the case Haight v. Erie County for $1.1 million. Although the case, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, settled in July, it was officially dismissed on Thursday.
A press release issued Sept. 13 by Haight’s attorney, Timothy O’Brien in Pittsburgh, said the settlement was reached through mediation in front of former federal Judge Kenneth Benson.
“The parties are pleased to be able to amicably resolve this matter,” O’Brien said in the statement. “The parties jointly acknowledge and wish to make clear that every person incarcerated in our institutional facilities are entitled to humane and just treatment in those facilities, afforded to them by properly trained prison personnel.”
According to the complaint, Haight had been arrested in May 2017 for failing to appear in court regarding criminal charges alleging that he had been driving under the influence of marijuana. The complaint said Haight had never previously been incarcerated and his bond had been set at $500.
Three days after he was incarcerated, the complaint said, Haight injured his toe while attempting to climb onto the top bunk in his cell. He was escorted to the medical office for treatment.
After he was treated, the officers escorting him back to general population were “immediately aggressive toward Mr. Haight, who was not resisting,” the complaint said. One of the officers, according to the complaint, punched him in the face with a closed fist.
The complaint said Haight had not been aggressive or exhibiting violent behavior.
The officers, the complaint said, continued to “violently escort” Haight, who was handcuffed at the time, and eventually pepper sprayed him in the eyes. He was then brought to an isolated shower area where he was punched and kicked by numerous officers, the complaint said.
The complaint said video surveillance showed Haight being dragged down a hallway to a gym, where six to 10 officers formed a circle around him. Some of the officers knelt on him, some strangled him and others kicked and punched him, the complaint said. The complaint also said Haight “laid motionless” during the beating.
The complaint said Haight was not immediately given any medical treatment, but instead was placed in solitary confinement. The next day he was taken to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Although he was initially discharged after only a few hours, he returned the following day and was immediately put on life support, including dialysis and a ventilator.
Haight, according to the complaint, was diagnosed with rib fractures, a punctured or collapsed lung, kidney failure, and a ruptured eye socket. Tears or restrictions in his carotid arteries also caused him to suffer strokes, the complaint said.
Haight brought claims alleging the officers violated the 14th Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
Patrick Carey of Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, who represented Erie County, declined to comment for the story.