On November 18, 2009, female inmates of the North Carolina Department of Correction (DOC) filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against individual employees and supervisors. The plaintiffs, represented by the North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services, asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages, claiming that the defendants violated their Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that various DOC employees had sexually assaulted, abused, or harassed them during their confinement and that certain supervisory defendants did nothing to prevent the abuse.
On September 10, 2010, Judge James C. Dever denied the plaintiffs' class certification motion without prejudice.
On March 16, 2011, Judge Dever granted in part a motion by several defendants for judgment on the pleadings, dismissed two plaintiffs and four defendants, and dismissed the remaining plaintiffs' First and Fourteenth Amendment claims. The court also denied the plaintiffs' second motion for class certification. Etters v. Bennett, 2011 WL 976472 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 16, 2011). The plaintiffs appealed, and on August 30, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued an opinion per curiam dismissing one of the plaintiff's appeals when her claim was dismissed by the district court. King v. Bennett, 444 F. App'x 686 (4th Cir. 2011).
On August 1, 2011, Judge Dever denied one of the defendant's motion for appointment of counsel (because he failed to fill out the necessary form) and denied a motion to intervene by another inmate. Etters v. Bennett, 2011 WL 3320489 (E.D.N.C. Aug. 1, 2011).
On May 18, 2012, plaintiff Deven Deal and defendants Keller, Bennett, Kimble, Harvey, and Blalock filed a joint stipulation of dismissal, seeking dismissal with prejudice of plaintiff Deal's claims against these defendants. On May 21, 2012, Deal filed a second notice of voluntary dismissal, seeking dismissal with prejudice of her claims against defendant Barbosa. On the same date, plaintiff Sandra Etters and defendants Young, Lancaster, and Harvey filed a joint motion to expedite the entry of an order based on their proposed settlement agreement, and Etters filed a motion for entry of default judgment against defendant Simms. The defendants agreed to improve sexual safety through policies, training practices, changes to physical facilities, and other measures for the prevention of sexual abuse.
On May 30, 2012, the court approved the two voluntary dismissals and approved the settlement by the parties providing for changes to state policies concerning reporting and investigating claims of sexual abuse by inmates. The court also approved a default judgment for Etters against Simms, the only remaining claims. Etters v. Young, 2012 WL 1950415 (E.D.N.C. May 30, 2012).
On February 6, 2013, Magistrate Judge James E. Gates issued a memorandum and recommendation that Etters be awarded $100,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, for a total damages award of $200,000 from defendant Charlie Cortez Simms. No party filed any objections. Etters v. Shanahan, 2013 WL 787344 (E.D.N.C. Feb. 6, 2013). Etters v. Shanahan, 2013 WL 787344 (E.D.N.C. Feb. 6, 2013).
On March 4, 2013, Judge Dever dismissed the claims of two of the plaintiffs and dismissed four of the defendants. The court also dismissed the six of the defendants as to the third plaintiff. Judge Dever also accepted the memorandum and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Gates. Etters v. Shanahan, 2013 WL 792834 (E.D.N.C. Mar. 4, 2013).Jessica Kincaid - 07/14/2014