Jail negligent in immigrant’s death

The daughter of a 49-year-old immigrant detainee who died after an infection overwhelmed his body has filed a federal civil lawsuit accusing officials at House of Correction and its privately run infirmary of gross negligence leading to his death. The claim seeks unspecified damages in the death of shuttle driver who was in jail fighting deportation to the Dominican Republic. As a Maryland lawyer I review these types of cases for potential liability of the correctional facilities and state actors in pursuing claims on behalf of familys aggrieved by such misconduct.

In the lawsuit,his daughter accuses jail and infirmary officials of reckless neglect, saying her father “died from a heart attack caused by a massive infection that the defendants failed to properly treat.” The lawsuit, which alleges civil rights violations and medical malpractice, cites a federal report last year that said jail officials waited too long to take the victim to the hospital, allowing the infection to spread. His death triggered protests from advocates for immigrants and others concerned about detainees’ care.

“If our country is going to lock people up just because they want to come live with us, the very least we can do is provide them decent medical care,” said the lawyer who represents the victim’s only child. “My client lost her dad because our government failed to properly discharge this most basic duty. This is not just a lawsuit, it’s a moral outrage.”

The lawsuit names the County Sheriff and jail superintendent, who supervise the jail, along with a private company that manages the prison. The claim also names the jail physician. In a statement the sheriff’s general counsel, denied that the Sheriff’s Department was indifferent to the victim’s care. He said the allegations in the claim “do not remotely support a civil rights complaint against any employee of the Sheriff’s Department,” and vowed to fight it.

“Neither the sheriff, the superintendent, nor the unidentified corrections officers have a role in the medical care provided to inmates or detainees,” the sheriff’s general counsel said in the statement. “They were certainly not deliberately indifferent to his medical care. The allegations against all Sheriff’s Department defendants are denied, and the complaint will be vigorously defended.” He continued to say that the victim and his cellmates said they thought he had a cold when he asked to be seen by the infirmary and that he was seen by medical staff that night and taken to the infirmary.

The victim’s claim does not target US Immigration and Customs Enforcement the federal agency in charge of immigrant detention and deportation. At that time, ICE was paying the jail $90 per person per day to house immigrant detainees facing deportation.

In a review of the victim’s death last year, ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility raised multiple issues with his care, including incomplete medical records, language barriers, and failure to complete basic tasks, such as consistently checking his vital signs and sending him to a hospital that was able to treat him. The victim stayed for nearly two days in the jail infirmary before he was taken to the first of three hospitals. He died 2 days later.

County officials defended the infirmary after his death, saying it is highly rated and provides care as quickly and efficiently as possible. The infirmary is staffed by three physicians on weekdays and by several nurses each day. It provides general medical care along with a variety of services, including mental health, dental, and nutrition services, physical therapy, optometry, and care for infectious disease. The infirmary serves more than 1,600 inmates in the jail, including regular inmates and immigrant detainees.

The victim came to the United States as a legal immigrant in 1976, but was later ordered deported. He had previous drug convictions, one in the 1980s and another in 2007 for a small amount of cocaine. He eluded deportation until 3 years ago, when State Police stopped him for a traffic violation and turned him over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His family said he was still fighting to stay in the United States.

His death raised concerns about the quality of medical care of immigrant detainees, who are held in federal, local, and privately run jails across the United States. In 2008, federal officials removed immigrants from a privately operated Detention Facility after a 34-year-old Chinese citizen was denied medical treatment shortly before he died of cancer.

If such tragedy happens to a loved one or a family member call me for a free initial consultation at 1-800-320-0080 to setup an appointment at my offices located in Baltimore or Rockville.