David S. Jasmer
Setting the Standard in Personal Injury
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Family files wrongful death suit over man's jailhouse death

If a loved one is incarcerated, we expect the people who run and work in the facility to ensure that person's safety to the best of their ability. Now a jailhouse death that occurred last year in Michigan is attracting media scrutiny after the release of a disturbing video. The victim was a 32-year-old man who was sentenced to 30 days behind bars because he was unable to come up with $772 after being pulled over for careless driving.

The man's family has filed a wrongful death suit in federal court for what one of their attorneys calls "shameful, substantial and unconscionable neglect." In addition to the county, the suit names the sheriff, numerous deputies, mental health professionals and the company responsible for health care in the jail.

According to a family attorney, the man reportedly died from benzodiazepine withdrawal after being denied methadone. According to the lawsuit, the man was taking 60 mg of methadone daily. This is generally prescribed to heroin addicts. He was also reportedly taking Xanax. The lawsuit says that both of those drugs were listed on his jail intake form.

During the more than two weeks in June 2014 that he was imprisoned, the man reportedly lost 50 pounds. The video shows him during this time on the floor, naked and clearly in distress.

The man was in the medical unit of the Macomb County Jail intermittently during his incarceration, reportedly under suicide watch and being monitored on a video feed. However, he died before medical personnel could resuscitate him.

The man's parents reportedly did not visit him, according to one of their attorneys, they "made a decision like so many parents do that they were exercising some tough love." Those responsible for caring for him, according to the lawsuit, "monitored, watched and observed [him] spend the final 10 days of his life suffering excruciating benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms." They are accused of being "deliberately indifferent" to the man's mental and physical health.

While those who are incarcerated may not be the most sympathetic victims, they are still owed a certain level of care. Those who work in the Illinois prison system are not responsible for being judge and jury for inmates and need to be held legally responsible for their actions or lack of action.

Source: CBS Detroit, "Video Surfaces Showing Inmate Slowly Dying In Macomb County Jail While Under Surveillance," Christy Strawser, Sep. 24, 2015

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