County expected to settle with former inmate

County to pay ex-inmate $187K after ‘debilitating’ injuries in jail

A woman allegedly hurt when shoved into a Montgomery County Jail cell appears to be the next former inmate the county will pay to settle a string of lawsuits claiming mistreatment at the facility.

County commissioners are expected to approve a $187,500 settlement with Tonya Varney, who filed a complaint last year claiming she was injured on May 19, 2017, when a corrections officer shoved her into a waiting area cell.

FIRST REPORT: Former inmate files lawsuit against Montgomery County Jail

Commissioners will vote Thursday on the settlement with Varney and her attorneys, Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz.

Varney balked at entering the cell because she thought urine was on the floor and was then shoved by Montgomery County Sheriff’s Sgt. Thomas Feehan, the suit alleges.

The suit claims Varney suffered “permanent and debilitating injuries” to her arm and needed a three-day hospital stay that totaled more than $90,000.

Named defendants in the lawsuit were Feehan and former Sheriff Phil Plummer, now a state representative.

RELATED: After 14 lawsuits, cultural changes needed at county jail, watchdogs say

Court records show Varney was arrested before 5 a.m. that day by Riverside police on charges of driving under the influence and taken to jail. She was later found guilty and ordered to attend a three-day intervention program, had her license suspended for a year with work, medical and family needs privileges.

At least 14 lawsuits alleging the mistreatment of inmates have been filed in recent years. A federal class-action lawsuit filed a year ago alleged overcrowding, and in December an inmate filed a suit naming as defendants the county’s board of commissioners, Plummer, as well as the man she claims sexually assaulted her in jail, former corrections officer Franco R. Villella.

Montgomery County and its insurers have now agreed to pay out millions of dollars in settlements to former inmates.

A $3.5 million settlement was brokered with the family of the late Robert Richardson, who died in 2012 while handcuffed face down in the county jail, according to the family’s attorney.

A settlement also has been reached with Joseph Guglielmo, a homeless veteran who alleged his head was slammed into a concrete wall by a jail sergeant. An expert estimated it would cost nearly $5.3 million to care for Guglielmo for the rest of his life, according to court documents.

MORE: Lawyer: $3.5M jail death settlement ‘huge victory for the family’

MORE: County settles jail suit from homeless vet needing $5.3M for care

The county has paid to settle jail cases brought by others: Amber Swink for $375,000, Marsha Pate-Strickland for $75,000, Darryl Wallace for $58,000, Emily Evans for $380,000 and $115,000 to Charles Wade. More lawsuits are pending — including the impacted bowel death of inmate Sasha Garvin.

County commissioners voted earlier this year to expand the jail, a structure that currently “does not provide a minimally adequate environment for staff or inmates,” according to a recent two-year study of the facility.

MORE: Montgomery County seeking proposals for jail expansion

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