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Romanucci & Blandin files civil lawsuit on behalf of Cory Merchant who died after a beating by inmate in Marion County, Florida jail

November 15, 2023

Complaint alleges unsafe conditions and negligent supervision of inmates

CHICAGO (November 15, 2023)Romanucci & Blandin, LLC announces the filing of a civil lawsuit for the wrongful death of Cory Merchant, who died following a beating by an inmate while both were being held in the Marion County, Florida jail near Ocala. Merchant was a pre-trial detainee and had not been convicted of any crime. He was brutally beaten by another inmate who struck him in the head, causing Mr. Merchant’s head to hit the floor and bleed profusely. He died one week later on November 13, 2021 from his injuries. The lawsuit alleges that not only was the other inmate known by the jail staff to be violent, the crowded conditions at the facility made violence likely, and jail guards failed to prevent and intervene in violent altercations between inmates, and in some situations even encouraged the violence.   The complaint further states that the ratio of inmates to supervisors was unsafe and that the physical structure of the dormitory-style jail unit with 80 open bunk beds made it very challenging for supervisors to have a sightline throughout the room to maintain safety.

The complaint was filed November 6, 2023 in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Ocala Division. The plaintiff is Cory Merchant’s sister, Krysti Merchant, representing the estate of Cory Merchant. Defendants are: Billy Woods, Sheriff of Marion County, Florida; Deputy J. Kosinski; Deputy Joseph Miller; Sergeant Jerome Dukes.  The complaint details multiple instances of inmate-on-inmate violence as well as supervisory deficiencies and failure to follow procedures or use common sense to protect inmate safety or maintain order.

Counts in the complaint include: 42 U.S.C. 1983 Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Rights; Wrongful Death – Willful and Wanton; and Wrongful Death – Negligence.  The lawsuit seeks a jury trial to recover lost support and services, medical expenses, and mental pain and suffering.

The plaintiff is represented by Romanucci & Blandin Partner Bhavani K. Raveendran and Attorney Sam A. Harton, and Attorney James M. Slater of Slater Legal.

“By all accounts, Cory Merchant was a ‘docile’ inmate who attended Bible study and was often harassed and attacked by other inmates. He had a right to physical safety while he awaited trial and maintained his innocence. The members of law enforcement failed Mr. Merchant, despite their responsibility to maintain order in the facility and provide consequences to any inmate who harmed another,said Partner Bhavani K. Raveendran Romanucci & Blandin.

"One of the fundamental issues in this case is the utter lack of supervision provided by the staff at the jail. The individuals who were supposed to be responsible for inmate safety knew how often inmate-on-inmate violence occurred in the Marion County Jail but still disregarded their supervisory duties, were distracted by social media while on duty, and failed to do the bare minimum to ensure inmate safety. It was a recipe for disaster, and Cory Merchant suffered the consequences,” said Attorney Sam Harton. Romanucci & Blandin.

“Staff in the jail knew or should have known that inmate safety was a serious issue. We know there was even at least one prior attack on Mr. Merchant by another inmate and we believe the staff should have been far more attentive and could have prevented this senseless loss of life,” said Attorney James Slater, Slater Legal.

To learn more about legal options involving prisoner’s rights cases please visit:

About Romanucci & Blandin, LLC

Romanucci & Blandin is a Chicago-based national trial practice committed to fighting for victims of negligence, abuse and wrongful death. Founded in 1998, we have decades of history securing verdicts and settlements for our clients - many for millions of dollars and others record-setting awards.  Our expertise ranges from medical malpractice and sexual abuse cases involving individual or institutional negligence to civil rights, police misconduct and workers' compensation, making Romanucci & Blandin a valuable legal resource to individuals and groups of people who have been injured by others’ wrongdoing. Referring attorneys and clients say several factors differentiate our firm: Our record of success, depth of experience, talented and dedicated legal team, tireless preparation and strategic use of communications to fight for the rights of those whose lives have been changed forever. We are different from other personal injury firms in that our work does not stop when a verdict or settlement is secured. We are often inspired by our clients’ experiences and commit resources to create change in our communities. For more information about Romanucci & Blandin, please visit or call (312) 313-7543.

About Slater Legal PLLC

Slater Legal is a Florida-based civil rights, First Amendment, and intellectual property law firm. Its busy civil rights practice is primarily focused on holding government actors accountable for their inhumane and unlawful treatment of prisoners and detainees.


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