County settles ex-inmate’s federal lawsuit

Schuylkill County will pay $19,000 to a Mahanoy Plane man who sued county prison officials in federal court for allegedly damaging his artificial leg in 2005.

The county commissioners voted Wednesday at their weekly meeting to approve the settlement of Thomas S. Zimmerman’s lawsuit against the county prison, bringing an end to a case that began in 2007.

Zimmerman, 50, filed his lawsuit on May 3, 2007, against the county, its prison board, two providers of medical services to the prison and nine county employees. He had sought unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, plus compensation for costs, from the defendants.

In the lawsuit, Zimmerman alleged that prison employees broke his artificial leg after confiscating it on May 4, 2005, when contraband tobacco was found in it.

He also alleged he fell three times the day his artificial leg was confiscated, including twice in the shower, and suffered fractures to his leg stump and back injuries as a result.

Furthermore, Zimmerman claimed prison officials refused to treat his injuries properly and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by maintaining conditions that were unsafe for him.

Assistant County Solicitor Robert S. Frycklund said Wednesday that in the settlement agreement, the county did not admit either liability or responsibility for Zimmerman’s injuries.

Zimmerman’s filing of the lawsuit did not keep him out of prison.

Zimmerman pleaded guilty on May 30, 2007, to delivery of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, conspiracy and possession of a controlled substance. Agents from the state attorney general’s office charged Zimmerman with delivering eight bags of heroin on March 25, 2004, behind the Shenandoah Post Office, 119 N. White St.

On the day Zimmerman pleaded guilty, county President Judge William E. Baldwin sentenced him to serve 21 to 42 months in a state correctional institution, pay costs and $100 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund and submit a DNA sample to law enforcement authorities.

On Jan. 2, 2009, county Judge D. Michael Stine denied Zimmerman’s motion to modify his sentence by removing him from prison and transferring him to a hospital. On Nov. 17, a three-judge state Superior Court panel upheld that ruling.

Zimmerman has since been released from prison.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III, who was presiding over the lawsuit, had scheduled the trial for the February 2011 term of court, with jury selection to have started on Feb. 2. Jones lives in Pottsville but his main chambers are in Harrisburg.


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