Sommers Schwartz attorney Matthew Turner secured a $950,000 personal injury settlement for the wrongful death of a 28-year-old man who was incarcerated in a county jail after being arrested for driving on a suspended license.
The decedent requested mental health assistance at his arraignment and was assured a professional would visit him. Four days later, the jail nurse, who had no mental health expertise, saw the decedent. She noted he had suffered a “panic attack” and needed a mental health evaluation. At the decedent’s request, the jail nurse saw him a second time that same day. She noted the decedent might be bipolar, but that she was not qualified to treat bipolar disorder. She also noted he needed counseling, mental health therapy, and medication, and should be promptly referred to a mental health facility. Despite this, the jail nurse did not call an ambulance or otherwise arrange for the decedent to be transported to a hospital. Rather, the jail nurse telephoned a community health service and was told the decedent was suffering from “anxiety.”
At the directive of the community health service, the decedent was given Benadryl, and a medical review appointment was scheduled for three weeks later. An earlier appointment was declined because one of the deputies was on vacation. The decedent continued to plead for mental health assistance, became more agitated, was hearing voices, and began punching the wall in his jail cell. The nurse called the community health service to reschedule his appointment for an earlier date, but never heard back, nor did she call an ambulance to transport the decedent to a local hospital or move him out of the general population and into a special cell for close observation. She left to go home for the weekend. A few days later, the decedent committed suicide in the jail shower, the result of the jail personnel’s deliberate indifference to the psychiatric needs of the inmate.