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Civil Rights Complaint Brought Against Bucks County and others for the Use of Excessive Force by a Corporal on Arrestee Resulting in Traumatic Brain Injury

By: Anapol Weiss

The civil rights team at Anapol Weiss initiated suit yesterday on behalf of 38-year-old Steven Burns and his wife because of an assault Burns faced at the hands of a corporal that left Burns without a portion of his skull, in a medically induced coma for days and facing a lifetime of seizures. The suit was brought against the County of Bucks, the Central Bucks Regional Police Department, the Bucks County Department of Corrections, and numerous officials who were responsible for overseeing Burns. As alleged in the Complaint, Burns was brought to a holding cell at the Central Bucks Regional Police Department on July 26, 2022, following an arrest for suspicion of DUI. The Complaint alleges and surveillance video is expected to reveal that while Burns was being monitored there, Corporal Joshua Albillar entered the cell and, despite any lack of provocation on the part of Burns, Albillar pushed Burns causing his head to violently strike the ground. Burns was rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent an emergency surgery. A portion of his skull was removed, and he was placed in a medically induced coma. After he awoke, he remained in intensive care for over a week and was discharged with seizure medications. He ended up having to undergo a cranioplasty, another invasive procedure performed to repair defects in the skull, six months later. He has since experienced over a dozen seizures.

In addition to the initial assault, it is alleged that Burns’ traumatic brain injury was not taken into consideration during his subsequent period of incarceration at the Central Bucks County Correctional Facility. He suffered two seizures there but was never brought to the hospital after either seizure. He was also forced to sleep on a top bunk and his seizure medications were not properly administered.

It is alleged that the defendants engaged in a pattern and practice of using excessive force and the failure to render appropriate medical aid. “It is this deliberate indifference and systemic breakdown towards the safety of detainees” that lead counsel Kila Baldwin states “is the reason why Use of Force reform must not just be reduced to writing through the County’s guidelines, but more importantly, fully implemented county wide.” Marni Berger, who is working alongside Baldwin on the case, echoes Baldwin’s point that “without the true implementation of the County’s Use of Force guidelines, it is inevitable that other detainees will be similarly assaulted, without consequence, despite a lack of provocation on the part of the detainee.”

The Complaint is brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a federal statute that allows individuals to sue the government for civil rights violations. It seeks to hold the County of Bucks and those employing Corporal Albillar, other nearby officers and those responsible for overseeing Burns at the Correctional Facility accountable for allowing the unreasonable force to occur, failing to intervene to protect Burns, and depriving him of his fundamental Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Complaint also brings several state law claims sounding in negligence, assault and battery, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress. As a result of these events, Burns and his wife Suttiya Wanadee seek various forms of damages including economic damage such as the reimbursement of past and future medical expenses and lost wages as well as damages for pain and suffering and punitive damages for the civil rights violations.

For more information, contact kbaldwin@anapoweiss.com or mberger@anapolweiss.com.