Lake County jail class action suit reaches settlement
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent September 8, 2012 6:40PM
Updated: October 10, 2012 6:26AM
CROWN POINT — Approximately 25,000 people last week received letters informing them they may be eligible to participate in a $7.2 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by inmates of the Lake County Jail.
A settlement between the county and the seven inmates representing the class was reached in August in U.S. District Judge Philip Simon’s court, according to the plaintiffs’ attorney Samantha Liskow, with Chicago civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy. A settlement approval hearing is scheduled at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 14 in Simon’s court.
Members of the class include any inmate incarcerated at the jail between May 13, 2006, and Feb. 1 who spent more than 24 hours at a time in the holding cell at the county jail. The length of time and number of prisoners incarcerated at any given time lead to the high number of possible claimants. Potential claimants have until Dec. 3 to file.
“The claim period is nearly a six-year period,” Liskow said.
Liskow said the list of potential claimants was derived from jail records during that period but may not be all-inclusive. Anybody in jail during that time period who believes they may be part of the class is eligible to submit a claim.
The plaintiffs had sued the county due to inhumane conditions at the Lake County Jail during that time. Inmates claimed they were forced to stay weeks, even months at a time, in holding cells where they were forced to sleep directly on concrete and in quarters so cramped they were nearly sleeping on top of each other. Detainees in the holding cells were not provided showers, clothing changes or soap, and one toilet was provided for up to 40 men, among other claims.
The original complainants were Richard Flood, Roberto Cantu, Terrance Smith, Patrick Flood, Jacqueline Drankus, Edward Walker and David Kurcz.
Gerald Bishop, who represented the county in the matter, said people have until Dec. 3 to opt in to the class or file an objection and pursue the matter on their own. The settlement could be modified depending on the response from potential claimants.
“I think the county is pleased the matter appears to be behind them,” Bishop said. He said a settlement is an agreement both sides approve and if there are no objections it will move forward bringing a close to the matter.
“It is a definitive resolution both sides can live with,” Bishop said.
Anyone who believes they should be considered part of the class, but who may not have received a letter, may contact the claim administrator at (800) 332-6198 or go to the website www.lakecountyjailsettlement.com