US & Canada

Judge rules inmate 'bitten on penis by rodent' may sue

Stock image of a rat
Mr Solomon and county officials disputed whether the culprit was a rat or mouse

A New York man who says a rat bit his penis during a jail stay may sue county officials, a judge has ruled.

Peter Solomon, who said he later had to endure a course of rabies jabs, says jailers knew the ward in which they placed him was infested with rodents.

He says the jail was negligent and mistreated him because he is black.

Lawyers for Nassau County sought to have the suit dismissed. Among other arguments, its experts said they saw no evidence of serious injury.

Rodent problem disputed

In February 2007, Mr Solomon, a Vietnam veteran who says he has been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, was jailed in the Nassau County Correctional Center near New York City, pending trial on charges he had menaced his wife.

He was transferred to a medical observation unit amid worries he was mentally ill. In court documents obtained by the BBC, he claims at night a rat "or similar rodent" emerged from a hole in his mattress and bit him on the penis and hand, drawing blood.

Mr Solomon, 54, claimed the county was indifferent to his treatment and failed to protect him from the vermin, and sued for damages.

County officials said they were shielded from lawsuits because they had acted in an official capacity, they were unaware of substantial risks, and they disputed the notion that a rodent problem existed in the jail.

They also noted the wound did not require stitching and argued that his injuries were merely psychological.

"The parties dispute whether the rodent was a mouse or a rat, whether Solomon was bitten or scratched, and the nature and extent of his injuries," US District Judge Arthur Spatt wrote.

He ruled on Thursday the suit may proceed.