GARDEN CITY, N.Y. — A man who claims a rodent bit him on the penis while he was being held in a New York jail can proceed with a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming county officials should have had better pest control, a judge has ruled.
Peter Solomon claims in his lawsuit against Nassau County that a rodent came out of a hole in his mattress and bit him while he was jailed in February 2007 on a charge of menacing his wife. He's a Vietnam veteran who says he was already suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Solomon sued the following year, claiming "deliberate indifference to his health and safety in failing to adequately protect him from rodents." Solomon claims he suffered emotional distress, and his attorney said Thursday that Solomon has "complete sexual dysfunction."
U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt recently denied Nassau County's motion for dismissal, ruling that Solomon had raised enough issues about the county's pest control procedures at the East Meadow jail for the lawsuit to proceed. The ruling was first reported Thursday in the New York Law Journal.
"The county is in trouble," declared Ambrose W. Wotorson, one of Solomon's attorneys. "There was a long-standing practice and pattern of not taking complaints about rodents seriously. I guess because they are inmates."
Solomon, who is in his 50s, was treated at the jail's medical clinic and later received a rabies shot. In his ruling, Spatt noted "there was no significant blood loss and the wound did not require stitching." He was released from jail the next month.
The county has sought to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing there was no proof of "a substantial risk of serious harm" and contended there was no evidence of rodents at the jail.
But Solomon's attorneys noted there were 11 formal inmate grievances about rodents in the 23 months leading up to his injury. They also cited a petition by 50 inmates complaining about rodents.
Spatt said Solomon's attorneys raised enough issues for the case to proceed.
Nassau County Attorney John Ciampoli predicted the county would prevail.
"I am sure the correctional center's procedures were sufficient to protect the inmates," Ciampoli told The Associated Press. "We are preparing for trial and are ready to confront the issues and win the case."
Wotorson said a federal jury would determine whether Solomon is due damages and if so, how much. The next court date is expected to be in February.