Victory for Civil Rights and Raymond Montoya
Huerfano County Settles with Raymond Montoya, Covering Montoya’s Medical Costs for Cruel and Unusual Punishment and Unnecessary Pain and Suffering
DENVER, CO – Just days before the scheduled start of trial, Huefano County settled with Raymond Montoya for
$200,000. The settlement came over four years after plaintiff Montoya filed a complaint that his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when he contracted MRSA and was denied appropriate medical treatment while in the Huerfano County jail.
In early March of 2011, Raymond Montoya was detained at the Huerfano County jail for allegedly violating the terms of his probation (though his probation was never revoked). He showed no signs or symptoms of illness before entering the jail, however on the second day of his incarceration he began feeling ill. Over the course of the next four days he displayed symptoms including nausea, vomiting, headaches, bloody cough, trouble breathing, discolored urine and a fever with sweating and chills. He requested medical attention, but the guards rejected his requests claiming that he did not look ill. On the sixth evening of his incarceration, Montoya was permitted to see the jail doctor who told him to simply take ibuprofen and return to his cell.
It was not until Montoya was being transferred out of the facility that someone else observed how ill Montoya appeared and re-routed him to the emergency room. Montoya was diagnosed with a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection, necrotic pneumonia and sepsis. MRSA infections, alone, present life-threatening challenges. Montoya clung to life as he was treated for over two weeks in the hospital and ultimately recovered. Evidence obtained during the case suggested that other inmates in the jail had also contracted MRSA and that the jail was aware of this, yet the jail did not take action to prevent the disease from spreading via the faulty heating and ventilation system.
In Montoya’s complaint for damages, his attorney Raymond Bryant cited that Montoya’s Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when the jail failed to provide him with appropriate medical treatment for a serious illness. Failure to follow the correct procedures and failure to replace the broken HVAC system resulted in exposure to the disease and cruel and unusual punishment of Montoya.
On Friday, July 24, 2015, both parties agreed to a $200,000 settlement. The trial was slated to begin on Monday, July 27. The settlement amount ensures that Montoya’s outstanding medical bills can be paid and that he is compensated for unnecessary pain and suffering. Complications in the case, including poor record keeping and destruction of evidence by the Sheriff, which Magistrate Judge Mix called a “portrait of ineptitude,” caused the case to carry on years longer than an average civil rights case.
The settlement is an important victory not just for Raymond Montoya, but for all inmates. “The case demonstrated that individuals who flaunt the Constitution cannot get away with it,” and that “the rights of those who are often ignored in our jail systems must be taken seriously,” commented Attorney Raymond Bryant.
Though the case demonstrated many areas in which the jail failed to implement appropriate policies and procedures, the jail does not appear to have made significant changes. However, the lead detention officer who was accused of violating Montoya’s rights is no longer employed at the jail.
About Civil Rights Litigation Group:
Civil Rights Litigation Group is a plaintiff’s law firm in Denver, Colorado. As civil rights advocates, the group helps clients stand up against injustice at the hands of public officials and corporations. Attorney Raymond Bryant is a trial lawyer and litigator with a background in political activism. He is committed to fighting for greater access to the courts and greater remedies for people who have had their rights violated. The law firm’s areas of practice include civil rights, police misconduct and employment discrimination. For more information, visit http://www.rightslitigation.com.