Jail Starvation Case Granted Class Action Status

On Monday August 20, 2018, a lawsuit brought by plaintiffs Perry Hill and James Rogers, alleging that the Montgomery County Jail in upstate New York provided inadequate nutritional sustenance to detainees and prisoners, received class action status.  In her opinion, the Hon. Brenda Sannes of the federal district court for the Northern District of New York detailed the disturbing facts of the case, including testimony that inmates suffered symptoms associated with starvation such as excessive weight loss, hair loss, receding and bleeding gums and nausea.  The opinion also noted expert testimony that inmates had resorted to eating toothpaste and toilet paper, aberrant behavior which the expert said is consistent with symptoms of severe hunger.

On these facts, the plaintiffs have alleged claims for violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States’ Constitution, which require that “prisoners be served ‘nutritionally adequate food that is prepared and served under conditions which do not present an immediate danger to the health and well being of the inmates who consume it’ [and] under certain circumstances a substantial deprivation of food may well be recognized as being of constitutional dimension.” Robles v. Coughlin, 725 F.2d 12, 15 (2d Cir. 1983).

The opinion did not rule on the ultimate merits of the suit, but does allow all individuals who were placed into custody of the Jail for two consecutive weeks – from July 2011 to final judgment – to proceed together in a single action.  The class is represented by attorneys at Migliaccio & Rathod LLP in Washington D.C. as well as attorneys at the Law offices of Elmer Robert Keach, III, P.C.  The case bears a caption of Hill v. Cty. Of Montgomery, No. 9:14-cv-00933 (BKS/DJS) (N.D.N.Y.).  

Class Counsel believe that the practice is likely widespread as state prisons are often among the first to suffer the brunt of state budget cutbacks.  For more information or to report a similar practice elsewhere, please contact Migliaccio & Rathod LLP at [email protected] or at 202-470-3520.