Columbia County settles lawsuit filed by former jail inmate
Columbia County will pay $140,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by a former county jail inmate who said he was abruptly released from jail without medical treatment after another inmate broke his jaw.
In the lawsuit filed last year on behalf of Taylor Self, Self's attorney wrote that Self was placed in jail in July 2019 after violating the terms of his probation for drug possession. At the time, Self's jaw was surgically wired after being broken.
Roughly a week before his scheduled release from the Columbia County Jail, Self was placed in a cell with another inmate. Following a dispute about cleaning the cell, the inmate, Kelsey Kalama, punched Self in the jaw.
Three hours later, a nurse came to assess Self. A few hours later, around 10:30 p.m., Self was released from the jail without medical treatment.
Jacob Johnstun, Self's attorney, said there were two parts of the case.
"One: whether the jail, the county, was responsible for Taylor receiving a broken jaw while in the jail, under their custody. And two: just abandoning him in the middle of the night to fend to himself, with no court approval, even though he was homeless."
Johnstun said the first part of the case was "debatable."
In the initial lawsuit, Self claimed that jail staff were aware that there was "animosity" between the two inmates but still insisted they share a cell.
But in a later joint filing from Johnstun and attorneys representing the county, both sides acknowledged that body camera footage from Sergeant Carolyn Townsend showed Self agreed to sharing a cell with Kalama.
A federal judge dismissed the portions of Self's lawsuit that claimed the county and Townsend were responsible for putting him into a dangerous situation while already injured.
Townsend ordered Self's release that night.
Attorneys for Citycounty Insurance Services, which pays out claims against the county, wrote in a 2020 filing: "To the extent plaintiff alleges he sustained any additional injury or increased pain because he was let out of jail before receiving the medical care Plaintiff believes he should have received, then Plaintiff himself is at fault for failing to obtain that medical care after being released from the jail."
Self, who was homeless when he entered the jail in July, left the jail on foot around 10:30 p.m. and walked to a friend's house, then contacted his parents, who drove him to an emergency room in Portland after midnight.
Columbia County Sheriff Brian Pixley said the settlement with Self "was a business decision made by the insurance (company) and in no way assumes or implies liability."
Townsend was placed on administrative leave the following month. Johnstun said he could not comment on the reason for Townsend's leave, but he said it was not related to the Self case.
Townsend retired a few weeks later, while an investigation was still ongoing. Earlier this year, the county settled with Townsend, paying her $110,000 to resolve what the settlement agreement described as "a doubtful and disputed claim."
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