Sumner Schick has filed suit against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a prison guard in a federal court in Houston on behalf of a family in relation to the death of Marinda Griggs. Griggs, who suffered from epilepsy, had been serving a 20-year sentence for aggravated robbery in a Gatesville prison at the time of her death. The lawsuit states that Griggs took her own life after being beaten and placed in solitary confinement while she suffered a seizure. The family alleges the defendants violated Griggs’ rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Texas Tort Claims Act and is seeking unspecified compensatory, special and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
A recent article in Houston Press explains:
Steve Sumner, the lead attorney on the case (who is being assisted by attorneys Justin Sumner, his son, and Jamie R. Wilson) argues that by adopting the Texas Tort Claims Act, the state waived immunity in cases like this, and the government can be held liable. The attorney general’s office argues, in turn, that this waiver only applies to individuals, not a unit of government.
The plaintiff says the state is misreading the law.
“We have case law that rebuts that,” Wilson says. “For purposes of liability under the Texas Tort Claims Act, it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a person. What matters is that your liability is of an individual person.”
The lawsuit expands on this.
“The Texas Tort Claims Act made it clear that units of government that previously enjoyed immunity from suit, shall now be liable for damages for death in certain prescribed citations if a private person would be so liable,” the lawsuit says.