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Jury Awards $858,200 in California Jail Suicide

On February 22, 2006, a federal jury sitting in Sacramento found San Joaquin County, and Dr. Robert Hart, MD., liable for the death of Maurice Shaw in August of 2000. Shaw, who suffered from schizophrenia, was arrested on a minor drug charge in May of 2000 and kept in solitary confinement in the County Jail for three months without treatment where he ultimately committed suicide by hanging.

In a two-phase trial, the jury awarded Shaws mother, Verdella $858,200 in damages. $100,000 of which was in punitive damages awarded against the countys psychiatrist for his oppression, malice, and reckless disregard to the boys serious medical need. Cases involving jails and prisons require the plaintiff to prove the equivalent of criminal recklessness, a degree of proof far in excess of the ordinary medical malpractice or negligence claims. That was proven here, a total breakdown in medical care, a systemic and complete indifference.

Counsel for the Plaintiff, Geri Lynn Green said: Today, it is jails and prisons that represent the bulk of the facilities housing those suffering from severe mental illness. This verdict has sweeping social significance because this jury heard what actually happens behind those walls and was outraged. See: Shaw v. San Joaquin County, USDC ED CA, Case No. 2:01-CV-1668-MCE-PAN.

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Related legal case

Shaw v. San Joaquin County

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