Government & Politics

Inmate hurt lugging water for broken toilet settles with Jackson County for $50,000

Jackson County will pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former jail inmate who hurt himself while carting water to fill the tank of the broken toilet in his cell.

The county legislature approved the settlement Monday to Nicholas Ayers and his attorneys. Trial had been set to begin April 2.

Ayers, 38, filed suit in federal court in 2017. He alleged that while awaiting trial in early 2016 he was assigned to a cell with a broken toilet. The water supply to it had been shut off because of a broken pipe, and sewage from an adjacent cell would backflow into the dry toilet bowl. Occasionally the muck would spill onto his floor.

Ayers claimed that staff at the Jackson County Detention Center did not fix the problem despite his complaints. To get the toilet to flush, he regularly lugged water to his second-floor cell from one flight below in a plastic trash can.

One night when the stench in his cell was so bad that he couldn’t sleep, Ayers said in court documents, he got up to get water. He was able to leave his cell because the lock didn’t work. On the way back to his cell, he fell backwards when the water shifted in the trash can and he sustained injuries to his head, neck and back.

Among other legal arguments, the county countered in court documents that Ayers had not followed procedures in alerting jail personnel to the broken toilet.

Since this and other incidents, the county has spent millions of dollars fixing broken cell door locks and addressing plumbing deficiencies.

Ayers is now serving a 15-year sentence at the Crossroads Correctional Facility in Cameron for robbery and armed criminal action, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.

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Mike Hendricks is a member of The Star’s investigations and watchdog reporting team. Send tips and story ideas in confidence by email to, Twitter direct message @kcmikehendricks, or anonymously via Signal encrypted message at 816-234-4738