Home > Uncategorized > Jailhouse Comp – No Liability for Injured Inmates

Jailhouse Comp – No Liability for Injured Inmates

So Stewie commits a crime and gets convicted.  He gets sentenced to serve time at the Los Angeles County Jail.  While there, he gets put to work as a cook for the county jail, and sustains an injury to his shoulder while going about his duties.  Is the County now on the hook as a workers’ compensation insurer?

And so we review the case of Stewart Espinoza v. Los Angeles County Jail, a writ denied case.

Applicant claimed that he thought his job as a cook was voluntary and that he was receiving more and better clothes and food because of doing this job.  Los Angeles County, on the other hand, had a slightly different understanding of the nature of the relationship.

Citing Penal Code section 4017 and Government Code section 25359, the County Jail put applicant to work without making him an employee or tucking him under the warm and protective covers of California’s workers’ compensation system.

The workers’ compensation Judge, however, found that the county had not established that the work was “compulsory” because applicant sang “hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to cook I go…” before starting his shift every day.

The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, in granting defendant’s petition for reconsideration, was not persuaded by the WCJ’s reasoning.  “If an inmate is directed to work by the Sheriff, the work is necessarily not voluntary.  Applicant’s subjective belief that he was not required to work is not conclusive in view of the County ordinance providing County with the means to compel work.”

Your curious blogger can’t help but wonder – why wouldn’t every county enact such an ordinance and avoid liability for injuries sustained by inmates?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. John Chamberlain
    June 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

    Just what the counties need. Injured inmates suing in tort. Or counties injuring inmates with out a warrant without any remedy. Talk about a civilized society.

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