The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday upheld the rejection of a lawsuit brought by the family of an inmate killed in 2017 by another inmate.
The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by the estate of 22-year-old Terry Berry, who was killed in April 2017 by his new cellmate, Patrick Schroeder.
The lawsuit accused the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services of negligence and wrongful death for putting Schroeder — who was known by prison officials to be bad-tempered — in the same cell with Berry. Schroeder readily admitted to strangling Berry, saying he killed the talkative Berry after warning him several times to “shut up.” Schroeder, who was already serving a life sentence for the 2006 murder of a 75-year-old Pawnee City farmer, is on death row for Berry's killing.
In its ruling, the state's high court said that state law so broadly defines government immunity that it had no choice but to uphold dismissal of the lawsuit. It suggested that the “Legislature may wish to revisit the state’s sovereign immunity in cases such as the one presented by this appeal.”
In a dissent, Justice Lindsey Miller-Lerman argued the majority wrongly bucked precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court on immunity and said the lawsuit should have been allowed to go before a jury.
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