Two different reports of two recent jail deaths (from two different publications) reveal a pair of incidents with some striking things in common. These deaths, and the timelines laid out in the accompanying news reports, show how often inmates receive questionable medical care. These reports are a stark reminder that substandard medical care remains a serious (and sometimes lethal) problem in Oregon’s correctional facilities. If you’ve lost a loved one in circumstances like this, the legal system allows you to pursue a constitutional claim. These cases are often complex and challenging, so getting advice and answers from an experienced Oregon jail medical neglect lawyer is well worth your while.
This kind of neglect can take many forms. Sometimes, it can include things as simple as a failure to do proper inmate wellness checks on a sufficiently frequent basis.
A jail death to our south recently received coverage from the Corvallis Gazette-Times, which laid out a detailed timeline of the inmate’s symptoms, and the actions (or lack thereof) undertaken by those responsible for her wellbeing.
A.S. entered the Benton County Jail on Dec. 19, 2018. According to the Gazette-Times report, the corrections nurse left on the 20th for a week’s vacation without leaving any instructions (or following up) regarding A.S.’s care, even though A.S. had begun experiencing problems before the nurse left. During that week, no nurse was on duty.
‘Throwing Up… Constantly… the Entire Time’
By the 21st, the woman began vomiting. The inmate in the cell next to A.S. told investigators the woman “had been throwing up ‘pretty constantly’ the ‘entire time’ they were next to each other.” (Uncontrollable vomiting is often a symptom of severe withdrawal, which — if not handled properly by care providers — can be serious or even fatal.)
The magistrate judge in the civil rights case related to A.S.’s death noted that this vomiting could not have gone unnoticed by correctional officers. The judge found that the Benton County Jail was so small that the sound of an inmate vomiting inside a cell could “be heard throughout the facility.”
The Gazette-Times also reported that one deputy found it “strange” that A.S. would vomit on the floor of her cell when her toilet was just a few feet away. Still, no one took action… except to move A.S. to a holding cell because “her constant yelling was bothering the other inmates in the hall,” according to evidence presented by the plaintiffs.
By Dec. 23, A.S. was dead.
Oregon law says that correctional officers should perform checks on detainees at least once per hour, which should include ensuring signs of life. However, according to the Gazette-Times, after one deputy allegedly spoke with A.S. at 7:10 a.m. on the 23rd, no one did anything other than look into the cell until 12:02 p.m., when a deputy noticed A.S.’s untouched lunch, pulled back the blanket that covered her and found her lifeless body.
According to the lawsuit, A.S. saw the nurse exactly once and never saw a doctor during her entire period of incarceration.
More Potentially Questionable Wellness Checks
A jail death here in Multnomah County contains allegations of similar deficiencies and similar inaction. The deceased man, C.P., was an inmate in Portland’s downtown jail. The deputy responsible for C.P.’s area noticed at lunchtime on Aug. 1 that the man was lying face down on the floor of his cell, according to a Willamette Week report.
The deputy asked if the inmate needed medication but got no response, so he and the health care aide simply moved on down the line. At 3:30 pm, when the deputy’s shift ended, the inmate was still face down on the floor of his cell, having not moved in the intervening several hours. But because the inmate allegedly was “most definitely breathing,” no one took any action.
Less than an hour later, officers found C.P. “unresponsive,” which presumably means that the inmate had stopped breathing. Resuscitation efforts were attempted, but C.P. was already dead.
The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office subsequently fired the deputy.
Even in cases that seem to show a blatant failure to provide proper medical care, these civil rights lawsuits aren’t easy to win. Success requires both a detailed understanding of the specific facts involved and an in-depth knowledge of the relevant law. If you think that you might need to pursue such a claim, getting the right information and advice before you begin is crucial. The Oregon civil rights attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are here to provide exactly that. We have the experience needed to give you reliable answers to the questions you have. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.