Court: State not liable for assault at DYS facility
Teenager punched boy in custody, leaving him brain damaged
A STATE APPEALS COURT agreed to dismiss a case against the state’s Department of Youth Services for an assault that occurred at a now-shuttered facility for youth in state custody, resolving one of several legal headaches state officials are facing due to problems at Casa Isla.
Casa Isla, a Department of Youth Services facility for juvenile delinquent boys in Boston, was closed in 2014 and eight former staff members were arrested in 2015 on charges that they abused boys under their care. Four of the staffers were convicted and sentenced to jail after a criminal trial.
Friday’s Appeals Court ruling stems from an unrelated incident.
In this case, Marianne Baptiste and Gregory Williams Sr. filed suit on behalf of their son, Gregory Williams Jr., who was at Casa Isla in 2013.
According to the lawsuit, when Williams complained of a headache after the attack, which happened around noon, staffers gave him ibuprofen but did not take him to see a nurse. He continued to complain of severe pain and began to lose feeling in his legs. After 5 p.m., staff called emergency services, who took him to the hospital.
As a result of the attack, Williams suffered a stroke and seizures and had fluid in the brain. He became brain damaged and now lives in a residential facility under 24-hour care.
Williams’ parents sued the Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Youth Services for negligence and for failing to provide their son with adequate medical care.
Casa Isla was run by Volunteers of America under a state contract. The complaint alleged that Casa Isla’s directors and staff were not compliant with various state requirements for medical-related training. However, the court said those failures to comply with things like first-aid training were not directly tied to the care provided to Williams.
The court wrote that the US Constitution protects someone in custody against “deliberate indifference to a serious medical need” but does not protect against “merely inadequate medical care.” In this case, the Appeals Court judges wrote, the allegations amount to “no more than negligence,” which is not a constitutional violation.
This conduct, the court ruled, is not sufficient to hold state officials – who were responsible for supervising VOA – legally liable.The lawsuit also names VOA and individual employees. That part of the case is being addressed in Suffolk Superior Court and was not the subject of the appeal.
Separately, the state has also been hit with three civil lawsuits due to the abuse by staff at Casa Isla. One has been settled, according to court records, and two are still pending. The settlement agreement has not yet been filed with the court.