The family of a Virginia jail inmate who died while in custody filed a federal jail medical malpractice lawsuit on December 1, 2016 against numerous defendants for the death of the 26-year-old man who had informed the jail medical personnel that he was addicted to Xanax but the staff wrote down on the inmate’s medical forms that he was addicted to opioids. As a result, when the man began having withdrawal symptoms from Xanax, he did not receive the proper medical treatment.
The man had been arrested on January 5, 2016 and was charged with malicious wounding and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Shortly after he was incarcerated, he began having withdrawal symptoms (the symptoms of withdrawal from Xanax can include tremors, increased anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, sweating, hallucinations, confusion, and psychosis). Despite making nonsensical statements and appearing confused, the correctional staff failed to timely contact the jail’s medical staff.
The decision was finally made by the correctional staff to bring the inmate to the medical unit of the jail yet the staff considered the inmate to be resisting and they used pepper spray on him and physically restrained him. The medical staff subsequently informed the correctional staff that the inmate needed to be brought to the hospital but the correctional staff instead removed the heavily sweating man from the medical unit and restrained him in a restraint chair.
On the evening of January 9, 2016, the man was found unresponsive and 911 was called. Attempts to resuscitate the inmate were made in the jail and then he was transported to the hospital, but he was declared dead seven minutes after arrival.
The man suffered cardiac arrest but the medical examiner determined that he died from unknown causes (the jail and its medical services provider did not provide the man’s medical records to the medical examiner). The family’s jail medical malpractice lawsuit seeks $20.4 million in damages from 23 defendants.
Since the January 9, 2016 inmate’s death, four other inmates at the same jail have died – one in February, one in March, one in June, and one in September. In 2016, at least 37 inmates have died while in custody in Virginia jails. Since 2011, at least 230 inmates have died in Virginia jails, including the August 2015 death of a 24-year-old inmate who died from complications of wasting syndrome (the man, who was bipolar and suffered from schizophrenia, lost 46 pounds over the period of 101 days after being arrested for allegedly stealing $5 worth of snack food from a convenience store near his home).
If you or a loved one may have a claim involving deliberate indifference to a serious medical need involving a present or former inmate in Virginia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an inmate medical malpractice lawyer who may investigate your deliberate indifference claim for you and represent you in a jail medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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