NEW YORK (AP) — The legal guardians for a 77-year-old woman in Rikers have sued New York City and a corrections officer, saying the inmate's arms were broken when she was shoved to the ground after throwing a paper medicine cup.
The civil rights lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court Saturday by a lawyer for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, also said the woman is mentally disabled and it alleged that the guard lied about what happened. The suit seeks $1 million in damages.
The lawsuit said the 106-pound prisoner — M.J. Norwick — was injured March 18, 2014, eight days after she was released from a hospital where she was treated for a heart attack.
It said "unjustified and excessive force" was used when she was "suddenly and violently" pushed to the floor of the Rose M. Singer Center at Rikers Island by a guard who said Norwick "threw" a paper medicine cup. The lawsuit said at least one witness reported that the paper cup landed in a garbage can.
Norwick's head struck the floor violently and her arms were broken as she tried to break the fall, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said the guard reacted after Norwick threw the medicine cup after becoming frustrated that medicine was not available at the infirmary's nursing station.
The guard later falsified her report on the incident by making it seem the fall was Norwick's fault, a version contradicted by Norwick, six other prisoners and the medical staff at Singer Center, the lawsuit said.
At the time, Norwick was being held on $25,000 cash bail, awaiting trial after her December 2013 arrest on charges, including attempted murder. She lived in midtown Manhattan before the arrest. The criminal case against her is pending, and she remains in Rikers.
The city law office said Monday it has not yet received the lawsuit but will review the allegations once it is formally delivered. A Correction Department spokeswoman said the agency will respond after reviewing the complaint.
The lawsuit said the legal guardian for Norwick was appointed by the New York State Supreme Court in 2010 after it was determined that she was "an incapacitated person" with "an inability to provide for her personal needs."
This story has been corrected to show the lawsuit seeks $1 million in damages, not $3 million.