A federal appellate court has reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate who was killed by his co-defendant and cellmate inside the Kings County Jail five years ago.
Judge Lawrence O’Neill dismissed the federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fresno in February 2015.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, however, ruled this month that O’Neill erred: “In California, prison officials owe detainees a duty to protect them from foreseeable harm.”
And under California law, “a jailer may be held partially liable even if the harm was primarily due to the detainees’ own negligence,” the ruling says.
The lawsuit centers on the April 2012 killing of John Cotta, 30, of Tulare. In June 2013, Heath Derrick Parnell pleaded guilty to murdering Cotta inside a jail cell that the two men shared.