Judge denies defense motions in Berryâ??s lawsuit

A federal judge denied a defense motion to strike portions of the amended complaint filed against the Central Virginia Regional Jail, former jail Superintendent F. Glenn Aylor and several jail officers and nurses by Sherry Thornhill, whose son Shawn Berry died in August 2014 while an inmate in the facility.

Chief U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad issued his eight-page ruling denying the motions on Jan. 20.

Conrad ruled against the motion to strike certain portions of the lawsuit, which the defense contended painted â??a grossly distorted picture of what happened.â? However, noting that CVRJ never targeted portions of the amended complaint regarding the distorted picture, Conrad reserved the right to â??act on its ownâ? to consider whether to strike those portions of the amended complaint at a later date.

The defendants argued that statements filed in the lawsuit they deliberated â??torturedâ? and â??killedâ? Berry was impertinent and scandalous.

â??First, as to whether the allegations are impertinent, the court finds that such language does pertain to the issues in question, namely whether defendants were deliberately indifferent to Berryâ??s serious medical need,â? Conrad wrote.

Citing a U.S. Supreme Court case, Conrad stated when an inmateâ??s medical needs are not met, â??such failure can produce â??physical torture or lingering death.â??â?

Conrad noted that the case was in its early stages and declined to strike language in the lawsuit about torture, even though he was not persuaded that scenario existed.

Thornhill contends that failure to provide medical care to her son who suffered alcohol and heroin withdrawal that was made known to jail officials at the time of his booking inflicted suffering, pain and death.

Conrad found that the word killed pertained to a wrongful act, neglect or â??default of a person.â?

â??As such, the court finds that such language is pertinent to issues raised in this litigation,â? Conrad wrote.

The judge said the word scandalous used in the lawsuit doesnâ??t cause â??an improper light on the defendants.â?

â??This case is in the early stages, and the parties have not engaged in full discovery as to what the defendantsâ?? knew at the time Berry was going through alcohol and heroin withdrawal,â? Conrad wrote. â??While these specific allegations in the complaint may be inflammatory and offensive to the defendants, the court is unable to find that the allegations have no possible relation or logical connection to the action, or cause significant prejudice to defendants.â?

The defendants argued that Thornhillâ??s complaint contains several irrelevant and sensational facts, among them that the counties are not named as defendants and that a paragraph casts the counties in a poor light. CVRJ also objected to language that it denied basic medical care to inmates to cuts costs.

Conrad concluded that whether CVRJ was adequately funded was relevant to Thornhillâ??s claim.

The judge also noted that what CVRJ learned from deputies arresting Berry and booking him at the jail as well as information from Berry and his girlfriend provided at the time of booking was relevant.

With Conrad denying the motion to strike, the case moves forward.

Wally Bunker is a freelance contributor with the Culpeper Times. You may reach him at wallybunker@outlook.com