Angry at someone for stealing your lunch?

Then it’s probably not the best idea to punch them, kick them or bash their head into the bathroom wall because it might end up costing taxpayers.

But a 2016 lawsuit filed in the District Court alleges that’s exactly what two Big Island corrections officers did in 2014. And now, they’ve put taxpayers on the hook to cover a $125,000 settlement for a lunchbox thief.

That’s just one of more than $6.1 million worth of cases settled by the state this year and which the Legislature approved Tuesday via House Bill 942.

In 2014, Zachary Smith, an inmate at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center, swiped a correction officer’s lunchbox and shared the food with other inmates.

Patrick Chong, who the lunchbox belonged to, and Jason Tagaloa, another corrections officer, took the inmates into a bathroom and began strip searching them. That’s when Smith admitted he was the thief, according to the lawsuit.

Tagaloa began punching him, then Chong joined in and slammed Smith’s head into the wall. The two corrections officers then held Smith’s arms behind him and kicked him in the body, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says that Smith was taken to a medical unit, but then taken back to his cell to wait six hours before receiving medical attention.

Smith’s attorneys filed counts of cruel and unusual punishment and due process violations against Tagaloa and Chong, three other correction’s officers, Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda and his deputy Jodie Maseaka-Hirata.

Chong and Tagaloa were also accused of assault and battery. The state settled out of court on April 12.

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