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EMSA Negligent In Florida Jail Prisoners Death, County Pays $65,000

EMSA Negligent In Florida Jail Prisoners Death, County Pays $65,000

by Michael Rigby

On April 1, 2005, a jury in the 19th Circuit Court of St. Lucie County, Florida, found EMSA Correctional Care negligent but not liable for damages in a prisoners allegedly drug-related death. EMSAs co-defendant, St. Lucie County, settled prior to trial for $65,000.

Jason King, 20, was arrested for peddling marijuana in 2000 and sentenced to 240 days in the St. Lucie County Jail. King died at the jail before he was released. According to his mother, Lillie King Gingras, his death was caused by an adverse reaction to the psychotropic medication Elavil, which he obtained from another prisoner.

Gingras sued EMSA and the County, individually and on behalf of her sons estate, claiming the defendants were negligent. The County was negligent, she contended, because jailers failed to properly supervise the prisoners. She claimed EMSA was negligent for dispensing medication in little cups, which allowed the prisoner who was taking the drug to hide it in his palm or hand and later give it to her son.

At trial EMSA contended it did not kill King. As evidence the company pointed to indefinite toxicology reports. It was equally probable, EMSA argued, that King died from an unrelated spontaneous convulsion. In addition, no one testified they saw King take the drug, and a medical examiner testified the cause of death was uncertain. After deliberating 5.5 hours, the jury found that EMSA was indeed negligent, but that its negligence did not cause Kings death. The jury therefore awarded no damages.

EMSA is a subsidiary of Prison Health Services, which has been implicated in the deaths of prisoners nationwide due to neglect, non-treatment, and questionable cost-cutting measures.

Gingras was represented by Laurence C. Huttman of the Stuart, Florida, firm Rubin and Rubin. See: Gingras v. EMSA Correctional Care, Inc., 19th Circuit Court of St. Lucie County, Case No. 01-CA001646.

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Related legal case

Gingras v. EMSA Correctional Care, Inc.