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Robins v. Harris - 743 N.E.2d 1142 (Ind. Ct. App. 2001)

Rule:

As a result of an inmate's substantial dependency and the extraordinary control jailers wield over prisoners, inmates are not precluded from recovering damages from a sheriff for injuries suffered by intentional wrongful acts of jail employees.

Facts:

Plaintiff Tammy Roblns, an inmate of the Vigo County Jail sued defendants, Sheriff William Harris and the Commissioners of Vigo County, for a sexual assault committed by a jailer, Michael Soules. In a previous opinion, the Indiana appellate court held, that as a result of "an inmate's substantial dependency and the extraordinary control jailers wield over prisoners . . . inmates are not precluded from recovering damages from a sheriff for injuries suffered by intentional wrongful acts of jail employees." The county commissioners, unlike Sheriff Harris, were free from liability because they were not responsible for administering Robins's incarceration. Sheriff Harris filed a petition, requesting a rehearing of the case, which the appellate court granted for the limited purpose of clarifying our original opinion. In support of his petition for rehearing, Sheriff Harris argued that the appellate court failed to address whether the jailer acted within the scope of his employment when he engaged in the sex act.

Issue:

Is the sheriff liable for the injuries suffered by an inmate due to the intentional wrongful acts of jail employees?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

On rehearing, the appellate court clarified that held that once it was determined that the sheriff owed a nondelegable duty of care to inmate, it was not required to address whether the jailer acted within the scope of his employment because the sheriff's liability was predicated on the inmate's complete inability to control her environment coupled with the sheriff's extraordinary ability to control her environment and his responsibility for her care.

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