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State can appeal class-action status teen inmate rape case

Mar 9, 2015

Credit flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

DETROIT - The Michigan Supreme Court has put the brakes on a lawsuit that accuses state prison officials of failing to prevent the sexual assault of male teen inmates.

The court ordered a stay Friday and told the appeals court to consider whether it can be a class-action case, possibly affecting hundreds of people. 

The appeals court had passed on that question, although attorneys fighting the lawsuit call it a "monumental issue."

Inmates, mostly 16 or 17, say they were forced to engage in sex acts with adult prisoners and staff. The alleged incidents occurred before August 2013 when all males under 18 were assigned to a prison away from adult inmates.

Lawyers defending the Corrections Department say there may be a "handful of isolated claims" but not a class-action.