Supreme Court declines to hear SPI assault case

Last week, the Texas Supreme Court denied hearing an appeal brought by a man who was beaten by a fellow inmate while being held at the city jail on South Padre Island.

The original suit was brought by Sean Kirstein against the City of South Padre Island in August 2018 after he was severely beaten by a fellow inmate following a June arrest for public intoxication.

The city filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the case claiming governmental immunity, which was granted by the trial court, prompting Kirstein’s appeal.

According to the petition forwarded to the Supreme Court from the Texas Thirteenth Court of Appeals, Kirstein was attacked by fellow inmate Francisco Ibarra while being detained at the city’s jail on June 29, 2018.

In the original complaint, Kirstein argued that the City’s “arresting officers and jailers knew or should have known that due to the many prior times they had arrested Mr. Kirstein for alcohol related offenses that he was an unpredictable, extremely aggressive and violent ‘drunk’ who needed to be ‘observed’ and ‘segregated’ from other prisoners to avoid harm to Mr. Kirstein and harm others.”

The man alleged that the City was at fault for negligence because the jail lacked adequate facilities for segregating and monitoring inmates such as Ibarra and Kirstein, and that the city’s negligent actions through use of city property served as basis for the suit.

Additionally, the document stated that the City failed to immediately transfer either Ibarra or Kirstein to the Cameron County Jail, which had the facilities necessary to segregate inmates. It was argued that the City’s jailers failed to follow written policies and procedures in place at the SPI jail for segregating drunk, violent, and aggressive inmates.

The complaint stated that jail employees were not given any jail detention training at the time they were assigned duty and that they were allowed to watch television at the booking desk, which took their attention away from the assault as it took place.

Kirstein suffered multiple injuries as a result of the attack, including a broken nose, fractured eye socket, fractured wrist, lacerations, bruising, and injuries to spinal discs in his neck and back that landed him in an intensive care unit, according to a statement of facts.

In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Kirstein cited a case in which the City of Waco’s immunity was waived in the case of a man who was sexually assaulted by another inmate as a result of the city’s failure to implement documented policy and procedure.

The man argued that the trial court had improperly ruled in favor of SPI’s immunity based on the facts of the Waco case.