Eduardo Miranda, a 33-year-old physician from Mexico, was arrested by El Paso police in February 1997 on an outstanding warrant for driving while intoxicated. Miranda suffered from a seizure disorder which he controlled with daily medication. Three days after his arrest, Miranda died while being restrained by jailers.
Miranda's widow, Jessie Dorado, sued the county on behalf of herself, Miranda's estate, and the couple's 8-month old daughter, Brianna Alexis Miranda (collectively "plaintiffs"), alleging the county was negligent and that it was deliberately indifferent to Miranda's serious medical needs in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiffs also claimed that emergencies were handled by licensed vocational nurses because a doctor and registered nurse were not present often enough and that the county tried to save money by restricting prisoner medical care.
At trial, plaintiffs argued that Miranda suffocated while being held face down during a seizure because jailers mistook the seizure for combative behavior. Plaintiffs' expert, Glenn G. Johnson, M.D., testified that Miranda died from positional asphyxia, supporting plaintiffs' argument. Plaintiffs further contended that jail and medical personnel refused to give Miranda his seizure medication, which they had confiscated, despite pleas from his wife and bail bondsman.
The county alleged that upon arriving at the jail, Miranda denied taking any medication. They further alleged that the following day Miranda told jail personnel that he took 2 mg of Ativan daily to control seizures, which he was then given. (Dorado testified that Miranda took a daily dose of 12 to 16 milligrams of Ativan.) Additionally, the county's expert testified that Miranda died not from positional asphyxia, but from cardio-respiratory arrest during an epileptic seizure.
The jury concluded that the county was deliberately indifferent to Miranda's serious medical needs and that this violation of his civil rights resulted from a policy, practice, or custom maintained or adopted by the county. They further held that only Miranda was negligent.
Dorado was awarded a total of $1 million in damages: $50,000 each for past and future loss of society companionship; $50,000 each for past and future loss of consortium; $200,000 for past mental anguish; $300,000 for future mental anguish; $68,000 for past pecuniary loss; and $232,000 for future pecuniary loss.
Brianna was awarded $1.5 million in damages: $100,000 each for past and future loss of society companionship; $300,000 for past mental anguish; $700,000 for future mental anguish; $60,000 for past pecuniary loss; and $240,000 for future pecuniary loss.
Because Miranda was found negligent, his estate received no damages but was awarded attorney fees of $371,892.50 and court costs of $21,625.78 An additional $370,000 in attorney fees was conditioned on appeals. The estate also received an agreed upon $7,331.74 for medical and funeral bills.
Plaintiffs were represented by James F. Scherr and Sam J. Legate of the El Paso law firm Scherr, Legate & Erlich. See: Dorado v. County of El Paso, El Paso County District Court, 120th, Case No. 97-2506.
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Related legal case
Dorado v. County of El Paso
|Cite||El Paso Co. Dist Ct, 120th, Case No. 97-2506|
|Level||State Trial Court|