Juvenile lawsuit involved $15,000 settlement

A settlement agreement between Jefferson County and the mother of a boy allegedly beaten while being held at the juvenile detention center in 2011 dismissed Sheriff Gerald Robinson completely and former deputy Roderick Shelby in his official capacity in exchange for cash.

The agreement, worked out by Hot Springs attorney C. Burt Newell, who represented Robinson and Shelby, called for paying Karen Walls, the mother of Chadarious Avery, a total of $15,000.

The lawsuit alleged that Avery was assaulted and beaten while Shelby was escorting him back to the detention center after an appearance in court. Robinson was added to the lawsuit after it was filed and was alleged to have failed to train and supervise Shelby and other probation officers. Shelby was also a part-time sheriff’s deputy at the time.

Newell said the money will be paid by the Arkansas Public Entities Risk Management Association, which has represented the county in previous lawsuits, and the county will not be out any money.

“The suit against the sheriff and Shelby in their official capacities was in effect a suit against the county and we thought it would be a prudent thing to do to settle it,” Newell said.

Robinson said Wednesday afternoon that he was advised not to comment on the settlement.

Last week, Federal Judge Kristine G. Baker signed an order officially dismissing both Robinson and Shelby in their official capacities, and Robinson in his individual capacity.

Although he was dismissed in an official capacity, Shelby, who is chief of staff for Juvenile Judge Earnest E. Brown Jr., was found liable in an individual capacity for violating Avery’s civil rights, and for claims of assault and battery.

The 11-member jury awarded Walls and Avery $6,000 on the civil-rights claim, and $1 each on claims of assault and battery. No punitive damages were awarded.

Shelby has asked Baker to reject a request for more than $35,000 in attorney’s fees and costs for J. Jason Boyeskie, who represented Walls and Avery during that trial.

Boyeskie, of Fayetteville, has filed a motion asking Baker to order Shelby to pay $33,319.54 in fees and $2,202.84 in costs, but Shelby’s attorney, Gene McKissic of Pine Bluff, has filed a motion asking Baker to deny that request, or in the alternative, award Boyeskie fees and costs “in reasonable relation to the amount of the award to (Walls and Avery).”

In a legal brief filed with the motion, McKissic said Walls and Avery had asked the jury to award damages of between $200,000 and $400,000 against Shelby and Robinson.

“The award of $6,000 is not significant when compared to the $400,000 initially sought by (Walls and Avery),” McKissic said in the court filing. “The actual amount awarded is only 1.5 percent of the amount sought, or put another way, the jury rejected 98.5 percent of (Walls and Avery’s) claim. Even if the settlement amount is included, (Walls and Avery) still recovered a total of $21,000, which calculates to only 5.25 percent of the amount sought.”

McKissic said Boyeskie did not present any medical reports or bills to support Avery’s claims, or any testimony from a medical provider to support the claims.

‘“A fair conclusion to draw is that the jury gave little weight to injury claims as only nominal damages ($1.00) were awarded and no award of punitive damages,” McKissic said in the court filing.