LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. — The family of an inmate burned while restrained in a shower in custody is suing the Loudoun County, Virginia jail for $7 million.
Editor's Note: This story contains an image of the burn as seen in the lawsuit, and it may be disturbing to some readers.
The family's lawsuit claims their son was tortured by being placed in the scalding hot water against his will.
The incident occurred at the adult detention center on Feb. 4, 2022.
That day, deputies noticed inmate Richard Piland had covered his cell window with toothpaste to prevent officers from seeing inside his jail cell, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.
Piland refused to comply after being given multiple verbal commands, the sheriff's office said, so pepper spray was used.
Medical staff then responded to attempt to wash the affected areas to minimize the effect of the spray.
Piland was then escorted to a nearby shower, but the sheriff's office said he became combative prior to getting in the shower, so Piland was placed into an emergency restraint chair and taken to a shower in the medical observation area.
This is where deputies turned on the water.
The sheriff's office said there's a mechanical system that regulates the water temperature in the jail. It's supposed to prevent the water from getting above 110 degrees.
According to the sheriff's office, the mechanism failed, allowing the water temperature to get hot enough to burn Piland.
The lawsuit claims the "scalding hot" water was over Piland for about 45 seconds.
The sheriff's office claims that the Loudoun County Department of General Services identified a mixing valve malfunction and replaced the failed valve within hours.
Additionally, as required by LCSO policy, an internal investigation was conducted regarding the incident, from the initial encounter with the inmate through the mechanical failure.
The sheriff's office claims the investigation revealed mechanical failure was the sole cause of the inmate's injuries.
The lawsuit claims Piland received first and second degree burns to his upper arm as a result of the hot water.