United States District Court, W.D. Texas
C. Lamberth United States District Judge
Raymond Tellez, formerly an inmate at the Central Texas
Detention Facility, brings (his negligence action against
defendant The GEO Group, Inc. ("GEO"),
which operates the Central Texas Detention Facility, in
connection with a stabbing assault perpetrated by other
inmates that he suffered while an inmate at the Central Texas
Detention Facility. Mr. Tellez originally brought claims for
negligent supervision (of inmates), lack of supervision or
training (guards), and negligent implementation of security
policies or procedures. On February 9, 2016, Magistrate Judge
Primomo recommended that summary judgment he granted in favor
of defendant as to Mr. Tellez's negligent training and
supervision claims [ECF No. 30]. He recommended that summary
judgment be denied, however, with respect to Mr. Tellez's
claims regarding failure to implement security policies or
procedures. On August 15, 2016, Judge Biery adopted this
Report and Recommendation and granted summary judgment in
favor of defendant as to Mr. Tellez's negligent training
and supervision claims and denied summary judgment as to Mr.
Tellez's claim concerning negligent implementation of a
policy/regulation [ECF No. 46].
case was tried to the Court on January 4, 2017. The Court has
considered the evidence presented at trial, the parties'
proffered facts, the arguments of counsel, and the
controlling legal authority. The Court has also ascertained
the credibility of each witness and evaluated the probative
value of all relevant evidence admitted at trial. Based upon
the foregoing, the Court makes the following findings of fact
and conclusions of law. It concludes that defendant The GEO
Group was negligent in failing to implement several policies
and is therefore liable to Mr. Tellez. The Court will award
damages totaling $25, 000.
FINDINGS OF FACT
the GEO Group, Inc. operates the Central Texas Detention
Facility. Mr. Tellez is an inmate who, in October 2013, was
incarcerated at the Central Texas Detention Facility while
awaiting sentencing. He had been arrested and charged with
intent to distribute a controlled substance (cocaine) and
possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on May 17, 2013.
Several months later, his drug charge was changed from
cocaine to methamphetamine and he was charged under a
superseding indictment. On June 1, 2016, he was charged in a
one count information with participating in a racketeer
influenced and corrupt organization ("RICO")
conspiracy. The pattern of racketeering activity included
four murders, extortion, and the distribution of narcotics.
Mr. Tellez agreed to plead guilty to these charges, but has
not yet been sentenced.
to his incarceration, Mr. Tellez was a "general" in
the Texas Mexican Mafia. As such, he was the highest ranking
member in San Antonio, with approximately 4, 000 individuals
under his command. While incarcerated, Mr. Tellez began
cooperating with the government, becoming a confidential
informant against the Mafia. He has testified against several
members of the Mafia, resulting in their incarceration, and,
at the time of trial, was expected to testify against two
more. The Mafia's penalty for this cooperation is death.
Tiros, all 4, 000 of the Mafia members previously under Mr.
Teller's command were essentially instructed to kill him.
placed him at a higher risk of being assaulted by other
inmates. As a result, he was kept in protective custody, with
instructions to keep him away from all other inmates. Mr.
Tellez was thus held in a cell on the first floor in the
medical department. The medical department consists generally
of three areas: 1) the main medical area/waiting area; 2)
medical left; and 3) medical right. Medical left-the female
side-consists of eight ceils, a guard's desk, and a
shower area. Medical right-the male side-consists of three
cells and a shower area. The main medical area/waiting area
contains a guard's desk. The three areas are oriented as
follows; if one enters the medical department, they will be
standing in the main medical area/watting area, facing the
guard's desk in the center. The entrance to medical left
is to the left of the guard's desk. The entrance to
medical right is to the right of the guard's desk. Both
are along the same wall behind the guard's desk. Medical
left and medical right are separated from the main medical
area by locked doors. Mr. Tellez was held in Cell 2 in
medical right. The shower area was located across from him.
October 24, 2013, two other inmates- -Roland Contreras and
Randy Oonzal es-were transported to the medical area. Inmates
Contreras and Gonzales are members of die Mexican Mafia, who,
like other members of the Mexican Mafia, sought to punish Mr.
Tellez for his cooperation. Due to this affiliation, they
were housed in administrative segregation...........separate
from the general population-and were considered threats to
other inmates. Because of their status as inmates housed in
administrative segregation, according to GEO policy at the
time of the assault, inmates Contreras and Gonzales were
supposed to be strip searched before being transported out of
their cells. GEO Officer Victoriono Chavarria was responsible
for conducting the strip search, They were not strip searched
on October 24, 2013. They were also supposed to be pat
searched upon arriving at the medical department. Officer
Dianne Corona was responsible for conducting the pat search.
They were not pat searched on October 24, 2013.
the medical area, inmate Contreras' restraints were
partially removed by Nurse Mary Garcia for a foot soak
treatment, so that at least one hand was free and uncuffed.
This was contrary to GEO policy, under which inmates
Contreras and Gonzales were supposed to have been restrained
by leg and hand restraints. Nurse Garcia had been instructed
on previous occasions that restraints were not to be removed
from inmates kept in administrative segregation-such as
inmates Contreras and Gonzales- without a doctor's order
and authorization from the duty warden.
evening of October 24, 2013, GEO Officer Candace Lundquist
was on duty in the medical department She was responsible for
the main medical area, medical left, and medical right.
During and around the time of the assault at issue, she was
moving amongst the three areas, sometimes leaving the
guard's desk in the main medical area unattended.
6:3.0 p.m., sometime after inmate Contreras5 restraints were
removed, and while Officer Lundquist was in medical left-and
therefore was absent from the main medical area where inmates
Contreras and Gonzales were located-inmates Contreras and
Gonzales got up, and walked through the door separating the
main medical area from medical right, where Mr. Tellez was
being housed. According to GEO policy, these doors were
supposed to be kept locked. On the evening of October 24,
2013, however, they were not locked. This fact was known to
GEO employees. At the time, Mr. Tellez was in the shower. He
was attacked by inmates Contreras and Gonzales. Inmate
Contreras stabbed Mr. Tellez with a sharpened object,
i.e., a shank, while inmate Gonzales acted as a
lookout Mr. Tellez was stabbed several times and suffered
several stab wounds and abrasions. He suffered from puncture
wounds to the right: chest, right armpit, right rib cage,
right front leg, right lumbar, and rear right leg. He
suffered abrasions to the top of his head. neck, right
lumbar, and rear right leg.
the assault, Mr. Tellez, was placed in his cell where an
initial assessment was conducted by Nurse Garcia. Forty-five
minutes later, he was taken to an assessment room for
evaluation. Mr. Tellez was able to walk to these locations.
His wounds were checked and cleaned, but he was not given any
pain medication. Dr. Samuel Morgan, the facility physician,
recommended that due the nature of Mr. Tellez's injuries
and the lack of ability to assess the extent and severity of
his injuries, Mr. Tellez be transferred off site for further
assessment, but that there was no need for an ambulance
because Mr. Tellez's injuries were not life threatening.
Mr. Tellez was transported to the hospital by facility
vehicle around 8:00 p.m. He waited for approximately one hour
at the hospital before receiving treatment. Three of his stab
wounds were closed with staples and he was placed on pain
medicine for five days. Mr. Tellez was transported back to
the jail and arrived at approximately 3:30 a.m. on October
25. The same day Mr. Tellez arrived back at GEO from the
hospital-October 25, 2013, the day after the attack-he was
transferred to Guadalupe County Jail, where he was housed in
the medical department for two weeks.
conducting an investigation, GEO issued a report finding that
Officers Chavarria and Lundquist committed acts of gross
negligence in not following facility procedure. Officers
Chavarria and Lundquist and Nurse Garcia were terminated as
a-result of this incident.
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
elements of a negligence claim are 1) the existence of a
duty, 2) a breach of that duty, 3) proximate cause, and 4)
damages. IHS Cedars Treatment Ctr, of DeSoto, Terns, Inc.
v. Mason, 143 S.W.3d 794, 798 (Tex, 2004). As a general
rule, "there is no duty to control the conduct of third
parties, " Salazar v. Collins, 255 S.W.3d 191,
198 (Tex. App. 2008). An exception applies, however,
"when a special relationship exists between an actor and
another that imposes a duty on the actor to control the
other's conduct." Id. At least one Texas
Court of Appeals has determined that prisons and jails have a
special relationship with inmates in their custody which
imposes on them a duty to protect inmates from other inmates
in certain circumstances. See id at 198-203.
Specifically, prisons "owe a duty of reasonable care to
protect inmates from harm [at the hands of other inmates]
when that harm is reasonably foreseeable.- Id. at
203; sec also Mhmeci v. Pollard, 565 U.S. 118, 128
(2012) (citing Salazar as "specific authority
indicating that state law imposes general tort duties of
reasonable care (including medical care) on prison employees
in every one of the eight States where privately managed
secure federal facilities are currently located");
Doe v. The Ceo Grp., Inc., No. SA-16-CV-173-XR, 2017
W.L 835209, at *5 (W.D. Tex. Mar, 2, 2017) (citing
Salazar and stating "Texas law might impose a
duty of care on prison staff).
element of proximate causation has two sub-elements; cause in
fact and for eseeability. IHS Cedars Treatment Ctr.,
143 S.W.3d at 798 "Cause in fact is established when the
act or omission was a substantial factor in bringing about
the injuries, and without it, the harm would not have
occurred." Id. at 799. "Foreseeability
exists when "the actor as a person of ordinary
intelligence should have anticipated the clangers his
negligent act creates for others.'" Houston,
Inc. v. Love, 92 S.W.3d 450, 454 (Tex. 2002).
Court finds that Mr. Tellez has demonstrated all of the
elements of a negligence claim. /. Duty First, GEO
owed Mr. Tellez a duty to protect him from attack in these
circumstances. GEO knew that as a government cooperator
working against the Mexican Mafia, Mr. Tellez was in danger
of being attacked. Mr. Tellez was thus to be kept in
protective custody away from all other inmates. The inmates
who attacked Mr. Tellez were members of the Mexican Mafia who
were considered to be threats to other inmates. As such, they