Georgia inmate Tony Goodman says that when he tried to hoist himself from a wheelchair onto the toilet in his prison cell one day, he slipped and suffered a seizure, breaking a toe and crushing his right knee, reports the Associated Press. Months later, he says he broke his foot and crushed the other knee during another attempt. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether the 41-year-old disabled inmate can sue the state for his injuries and suffering.
A ruling in his favor could open cash-strapped prison systems to costly lawsuits from disabled prisoners. That prospect could force aging prison systems to move faster and spend millions to become handicapped-accessible. Goodman is accusing the Georgia Department of Corrections of intentional neglect under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the 1990 federal law requiring that many businesses and buildings take reasonable steps to accommodate disabled people. Goodman is serving a 15-year sentence for a 1995 cocaine conviction and an aggravated assault that occurred three years after he injured his spine in a car accident. Georgia estimates that 2,000 of its 50,000 prison inmates have some disability.