Hampton Woman Awarded $22,000 in Lawsuit Against Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail Over Lack of Toilet Paper and Fecal Matter Towels

Hampton, Virginia – A federal jury has awarded a Hampton woman $22,000 in a lawsuit against the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. The woman, Antoinette Weathers, claimed that jail guards denied her toilet paper for several days in 2022. Additionally, she alleged that the towels provided to her were “caked in fecal matter.” In addition to the compensation, the jail is also responsible for paying approximately $60,000 in attorney fees.

Weathers, 63, was taken into custody in June 2022 to serve a three-week sentence on assault and DUI charges from York County. During her time in jail, she testified that the guards repeatedly ignored her requests for toilet paper. She even complained to other inmates about the lack of new toilet paper in her cell, to which one inmate responded, “Use towels like we all do.”

According to Weathers’ attorney, Blake Weiner, the lack of toilet paper caused Weathers to develop a rash. Additionally, Weathers testified during the trial that the two towels she received during her jail stay were unsanitary, as they were “caked in fecal matter.” However, the jail maintains that inmates are provided one towel per week and that there was never a problem with toilet paper. They assert that if inmates asked for new rolls, they would receive them.

The Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail, located in James City County, is a publicly-owned facility that houses inmates from Williamsburg, James City, York County, and Poquoson. The lawsuit alleges that the jail and its superintendent, Col. Roy Witham, were negligent and violated Weathers’ constitutional rights. The complaint states that Weathers was subjected to conditions that violated her Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

The jail has denied these allegations, but Witham could not be reached for comment on the recent verdict. Weathers’ attorney claimed that the superintendent testified during the trial that he was never informed of the toilet paper issue or the provision of unclean towels to inmates. However, the jury determined that both defendants violated Weathers’ constitutional rights and found them to be “grossly negligent” in their actions.

In addition to the compensatory damages, the jury awarded Weathers $20,000 against the jail and $2,000 against Witham. As the prevailing party, Weathers’ attorney is entitled to submit his fees for payment by the defense under federal law for civil rights claims. He estimates that the attorney fees will amount to around $60,000, which is subject to review and approval by Senior U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.

Blake Weiner explained that even though the amount of damages sought in these cases may seem small, they are still important for ensuring accountability. Federal law requires losing defendants in civil rights cases to pay attorney fees, which serves as an incentive for lawyers to pursue these smaller cases. Such litigation acts as a vital check on the actions of jails, police, and sheriff’s offices, allowing lawyers to be the watchdogs and receive compensation for their successful efforts.

In summary, Antoinette Weathers has been awarded $22,000 in compensation after claiming that she was denied toilet paper and provided with unsanitary towels at the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail. The jury found both the jail and its superintendent to be in violation of Weathers’ constitutional rights. This case highlights the importance of civil rights litigation in holding institutions accountable and ensuring the protection of inmates’ rights.