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Wrongful death at prisons a serious issue

Prison inmates have rights. This is often forgotten by the people who care for them. Some of these people, who struggled through a hard time in their life or were caught up in the wrong crowd at the wrong time, end up paying the ultimate price when they are not properly cared for while serving their time. In situations where prison staff were so negligent to the point that someone under their supervision is seriously dies, that inmate's family may have a potential wrongful death claim against the negligent party and prison where he or she is employed.

In Alameda County, California, a company that provides healthcare for adult prison inmates has agreed to pay at least $8.3 million in an effort to settle a federal lawsuit filed against the company by four children of an inmate who died in 2010. The man was withdrawing from an alcohol addiction and acting erratically when sheriff's deputies used a Taser to subdue the man.

Alameda County and Corizon Health will split the $8.3 million payout in connection with the man's death. Corizon is the healthcare provider contracted out by the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, CA. 50-year-old Martin Harrison is said to have died while withdrawing from alcohol. The $8.3 million is the largest wrongful death settlement in a civil rights case in California history, according to Harrison's family's lawyer.

In addition to the payout, Corizon agreed to apply serious changes to how its staff members treat patients and how jails are staffed in general. The terms of the deal are going to be enforced for at least four years by a United States district judge. It is believed that part of the Corizon's malfeasance stems from budget cuts where it began hiring vocational nurses in lieu of more highly qualified registered nurses.

The Harrisons' attorney said that Mr. Harrison told nurses that he had a history of alcohol withdraw. He was originally treated and medicated, but a change in nursing staff proved to be the difference, as new medical staff took Harrison off his meds and placed him back into the general population of the prison. His withdraw would eventually lead to severe complications, such as hallucinations. When Harrison became too encumbered by his sickness, his odd behavior caused jail staff to approach and stun him. He would die two days later from a lack of oxygen to the brain caused by cardiac arrest from the Taser.

Throughout the country and right here in Pennsylvania, jails and their healthcare providers are cutting back. The result is that inmates suffer inhumanely because of these cuts. Remember, although these people have made mistakes in their lives, some as simple as jaywalking or missing a court date, they still have civil rights. If you have suffered serious medical injuries because of negligent medical staff at a jail, or if you are the family member of a person who died in jail due to negligence, please call the Pennsylvania personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at Goodrich & Geist today for a free consultation at 412-766-1455.

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