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Texas Jail Suicide Suit Settles For $300,000

In December 2005 Nueces County, Texas, agreed to pay $300,000 to settle with a woman whose husband committed suicide in the county's jail.

In 1995, while imprisoned in the Nueces County Jail in Corpus Christi, Texas, Jose Orlando Sanchez-Ortiz committed suicide. His wife, Maria Sanchez-Ortiz, subsequently filed suit in state court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Texas Tort Claims Act.

In her lawsuit Ms. Sanchez-Ortiz claimed she warned jailers that her husband was suicidal, though she provided no supporting documentation. Other evidence showed, however, that the jail was understaffed and that many jailers failed to conduct cell checks as required by the Texas Jail Standards. The evidence further indicated that Ortiz-Sanchez was allowed to cover the windows in his cell with paper before committing suicide.

During the discovery process evidence also surfaced that Sanchez-Ortiz may have been married previously. Because no documents were found showing he had ever been divorced from his first wife, Nueces County settled with her prior to settling with Maria Sanchez-Ortiz.

Ms. Sanchez-Ortiz was represented by Christopher J. Gale of the San Antonio firm Gale, Wilson & Sanchez. Randall G. Hines, also of San Antonio, was retained as an expert on jail suicide prevention procedures. See: Sanchez-Ortiz v. Nueces County, 214th District Court of Nueces County, Case No. 97-3590-F.

Source: Williford Information Corporation

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Related legal case

Sanchez-Ortiz v. Nueces County