Prison company wants dismissal of riot lawsuit

Published 12:15 am Saturday, July 6, 2013

JACKSON (AP) — A prison company wants a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by relatives of a guard who was killed during a prison riot in Mississippi.

Correction officer Catlin Carithers was beaten to death during the May 20, 2012, riot at the privately run Adams County Correctional Facility in Natchez.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Natchez against Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the prison.

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The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, says CCA “created a dangerous atmosphere for the correction officers by depriving inmates of basic needs and treating them inhumanely.”

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed Wednesday says, among other things, that CCA is immune from the claims in the lawsuit because they are barred “by the exclusive remedy provision in the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Act.”

The argument is that workplace injuries should be compensated by workers’ compensation, not through litigation.

“Carithers’s death was caused by the willful conduct of a third party (inmates) because of his employment status as a correctional officer at ACCF and while working on the job. Therefore, his death is compensable under the Act,” the motion said.

The lawsuit says prison officials were told by an informant in the days before the riot that the situation was becoming volatile and that the officials failed to warn Carithers that he and other guards were on an inmate “hit list.”

Besides the Workers’ Compensation Act, the motion provides an alternative argument to dismiss the lawsuit — that the allegations fail to state a claim.

“Defendants did not assault or batter Carithers; inmates did. Moreover, regarding the alleged failure to disclose the inmate informant’s “black list” report, the Complaint fails to allege the reliance, proximate causation, and legal duty requirements of a fraudulent concealment claim,” the motion says.

Carithers was off the day of the riot but was called in to help, his family has said.

It took hours for authorities to control the riot, which grew to involve hundreds of inmates and injured at least 20 people.

The prison holds nearly 2,500 inmates convicted of crimes while being in the U.S. illegally.

The FBI has said in court records that the riot was started by a group of Mexican inmates, known as Paisas, who were angry about what they considered poor food and medical care and disrespectful guards. Paisas are a loosely affiliated group within the prison, without ties to organized gangs, FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden has said.

Several inmates have been charged with rioting in the case.

The prison’s special response team and the Mississippi Highway Patrol’s SWAT team worked to end the riot while state and area law enforcement officers, some from neighboring Louisiana, helped secure the outside.