- Associated Press - Friday, August 7, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - A man who was being transported from a Rugby jail to Bismarck in 2013 has filed a federal lawsuit over injuries he suffered when he jumped out of the van while it was moving.

Larry Desjarlais is alleging negligence and civil rights violations, saying he suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a coma for about five days and still suffers numerous residual effects.

“He has great difficulty in carrying out activities of daily life, has been recommended for an assisted living situation,” Desjarlais’ lawyer, Barry Hogan, said in the lawsuit filed Monday.

The suit names Pierce County and seven individuals as defendants. It seeks medical expenses and unspecified punitive damages.

Pierce County State’s Attorney Galen Mack said the complaint has been forwarded to the county’s insurance carrier. Mack said he has not yet talked with Desjarlais or his lawyer.

“I don’t have much to say at this point,” Mack said. He did note that most, if not all, of the individuals named in the suit no longer work for the county or the jail.

Desjarlais was arrested on Aug. 6, 2013, on an outstanding warrant for violating a restraining order. He was placed in suicide prevention care, which included a padded cell, a suicide mock and video surveillance. Correctional officers failed to take that into account when they decided to transport Desjarlais, according to the complaint.

The next day, Desjarlais was in a van for a scheduled 2½-hour ride to Bismarck, and an officer noticed that Desjarlais had taken off his seat belt and the rear sliding door was cracked, the lawsuit says. The officers allegedly stopped the van, got him back in his seat belt and threatened to use pepper spray if it happened again.

About 10 miles later, Desjarlais took off his seat belt, opened the side door and jumped out while the van was traveling at 70 mph, the lawsuit said.

“The defendants, having taken Larry into their custody, had a duty and obligation, constitutionally and otherwise, to protect him,” Hogan said. “They recklessly failed to do so.”

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