Case: Webster v. Sowders

3:86-00012 | U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky

Filed Date: March 11, 1986

Clearinghouse coding complete

Case Summary

On March 11, 1986, a class of 2,800 inmates at Northpoint Training Center, a Kentucky correctional institution, brought a class action lawsuit against prison officials for injunctive relief and damages claiming to have been exposed to potentially dangerous levels of asbestos at the facility. They challenged both the existence of asbestos in prison dormitories and the use of inmate labor to remove it. In 1985, officials at Northpoint began a program to use inmate labor to remove asbestos in old …

On March 11, 1986, a class of 2,800 inmates at Northpoint Training Center, a Kentucky correctional institution, brought a class action lawsuit against prison officials for injunctive relief and damages claiming to have been exposed to potentially dangerous levels of asbestos at the facility. They challenged both the existence of asbestos in prison dormitories and the use of inmate labor to remove it. In 1985, officials at Northpoint began a program to use inmate labor to remove asbestos in old prison buildings. Inmates filed suit shortly thereafter. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky (Judge William O. Bertelsman) issued a temporary restraining order, and later a preliminary injunction, finding that inmates were at risk by the facility's use of prisoners in unsafe conditions to remove asbestos. Postponing discovery and trial on liability and damages, the Court appointed an asbestos-removal expert, Versar, Inc., to oversee compliance with asbestos removal regulations and awarded interim attorneys fees and monitor fees. This fee-award order was appealed by the state, and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in part and dismissed in part. Webster v. Sowders, 846 F.2d 1032 (6th Cir. 1988) (Judge Gilbert S. Merritt, Jr.).

After several years of litigation on the asbestos issue, the parties reached a settlement that was approved by Judge Bertelsman on January 5, 1990 after two hearings. The settlement, which had been approved by the majority of class members, granted the injunctive relief sought by the inmates but dismissed the claims for damages, though it preserved the rights of inmates to seek damages in separate actions. Two inmates who were part of the class filed an appeal, arguing that the court should not have approved the settlement. In an unpublished per curiam opinion on March 26, 2001, the 6th Circuit affirmed the District Court's approval of the settlement, finding no abuse of discretion. Webster v. Sowders, 928 F.2d 1134 (6th Cir. 1991). The U.S. Supreme Court denied the inmates' subsequent petition for a writ of certiorari. Parrott v. Sowders, 502 U.S. 1007 (1991).

After the enactment of the Prison Litigation Reform Act in 1996, the state sought to terminate the prospective relief provisions in the consent decree. After various proceedings, the District Court entered an order terminating the prospective relief provisions but leaving intact the provisions governing accrual of claims for statute of limitations purposes. The precise timing of the termination is unclear. In an unpublished opinion, the 6th Circuit affirmed the District Court's order on August 10, 1998. Webster v. Sowders, 165 F.3d 29 (6th Cir. 1998).

Summary Authors

Denise Lieberman (10/23/2005)

People


Judge(s)

Gilman, Ronald Lee (Tennessee)

Kennedy, Cornelia Groefsema (Michigan)

Merritt, Gilbert Stroud Jr. (Tennessee)

Nelson, David Aldrich (Ohio)

Rubin, Carl Bernard (Ohio)

Suhrheinrich, Richard Fred (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Dolan, Daniel R. (Kentucky)

Lipton, Andrew S. (Ohio)

Powell, Gary E. (Ohio)

Reeves, Robert E. (Kentucky)

Judge(s)

Gilman, Ronald Lee (Tennessee)

Kennedy, Cornelia Groefsema (Michigan)

Merritt, Gilbert Stroud Jr. (Tennessee)

Nelson, David Aldrich (Ohio)

Rubin, Carl Bernard (Ohio)

Suhrheinrich, Richard Fred (Michigan)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Dolan, Daniel R. (Kentucky)

Lipton, Andrew S. (Ohio)

Powell, Gary E. (Ohio)

Reeves, Robert E. (Kentucky)

Attorneys(s) for Defendant

Biggs, Tamela A. (Kentucky)

Jones, Barbara Willett (Kentucky)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

97-05869

Docket

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Sept. 14, 1998

Sept. 14, 1998

Docket

86-06309

87-05198

Reported Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

846 F.2d 1032, 1988 U.S.App.LEXIS 6465

May 18, 1988

May 18, 1988

Order/Opinion

90-05236

Unpublished Opinion

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

928 F.2d 1134, 1991 U.S.App.LEXIS 9971

March 26, 1991

March 26, 1991

Order/Opinion

91-06162

Memorandum Decision

Parrott v. Sowders

Supreme Court of the United States

502 U.S. 1007, 112 S.Ct. 645, 116 L.Ed.2d 662

Dec. 9, 1991

Dec. 9, 1991

Order/Opinion

97-05869

Unpublished Disposition

U. S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

165 F.3d 29

Aug. 10, 1998

Aug. 10, 1998

Order/Opinion

Resources

Docket

Last updated July 17, 2022, 3:10 a.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Kentucky

Case Type(s):

Prison Conditions

Key Dates

Filing Date: March 11, 1986

Case Ongoing: No reason to think so

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

inmates at Northpoint Training Center in Kentucky

Public Interest Lawyer: Unknown

Filed Pro Se: Yes

Class Action Sought: Yes

Class Action Outcome: Granted

Defendants

Kentucky Department of Corrections, State

Case Details

Causes of Action:

42 U.S.C. § 1983

Constitutional Clause(s):

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Availably Documents:

Any published opinion

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Plaintiff

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order

Source of Relief:

Settlement

Form of Settlement:

Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree

Order Duration: 1990 - None

Content of Injunction:

Preliminary relief granted

Issues

General:

Personal injury

Sanitation / living conditions

Type of Facility:

Government-run