Civil Rights

Fuchsberg Law Firm Holds Prison Accountable for Failing to Assist Physician Who was Held Hostage by Inmate

Jaehyun Oh

Partner Jaehyun Oh represented a long-time physician assistant at Rikers Island who was held hostage by a violent inmate (known as Rodriguez) who was awaiting trial for murder. Despite the fact that our client made numerous pleas for help, the correctional officers who witnessed the attack failed to intervene, causing the situation to grow extremely hostile and dangerous. As a result, our client was held hostage for over two hours and suffers from severe trauma from the incident. 

Notably, Rodriguez has a well-known history of violence, specifically against the medical staff at Rikers, and the correctional officers who were responsible for his transport were aware of this history. However, Rodriguez was recklessly left alone in the infirmary after our client performed a physical examination on him, and as a result, he locked our client into a small nursing station and refused to let him out. 

The lawsuit was brought against the correctional officers involved as well as against the City of New York and alleged that our client was deprived of his constitutional right to be free from state-created dangers. Defendants moved to dismiss the constitutional claim because ordinarily, failure to protect a citizen from a third party’s attack does not constitute a state-created danger. 

However, Ms. Oh successfully argued that the State Created Danger Doctrine allows officers to be held liable under the Fourteenth Amendment if they affirmatively created or increased the risk of harm to an individual. Ms. Oh argued that by officers’ failure to timely intervene, Rodriguez was emboldened to escalate his behavior and exacerbate our client’s trauma. 

In a historic decision, Judge Castel sided with Plaintiffs and held that by failing to immediately detain Rodriguez once they realized our client was in danger, the officers sent an “implicit message” that they condoned his misconduct. With this decision in the background, the parties proceeded to a mediation with the Federal Magistrate Judge, resulting in a pre-trial settlement.