Court upholds dismissal of GarCo jail abuse suit

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld a decision tossing out a lawsuit against Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and his jail staff, saying a former jail inmate failed to follow proper procedure.

The court said U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Babcock ruled correctly when he dismissed a civil rights complaint lodged by former Garfield County Jail inmate Adam Burke, who claimed he was kept in a restraining chair inside his jail cell after deputies had fired pepper balls into the cell in January 2006.

Burke alleged he was denied medical care for pepper dust on his face and pepper-ball shots aimed at his groin. He also alleged that injuries to his shoulder occurred in March 2006 as a deputy strapped him into a restraint chair.

Babcock last year threw out the lawsuit, saying Burke had not exhausted all available legal remedies as required under the federal Prison Litigation Reform Act, before he filed suit.

The judge found that Burke’s grievances were filed several months after the incidents that he alleged had occurred, and that Garfield County Sheriff’s Department’s policies and procedures require that inmate grievances be lodged within 72 hours of the incidents. The judge also said Burke failed to provide specific facts about each incident.

The Court of Appeals, however, asked Babcock to clarify that Burke can still raise a civil rights claim in another lawsuit.


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