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Prisoner’s Death Following Failure To Give Intake Medical Examination Settled By Los Angeles County For $700,000

Prisoner's Death Following Failure To Give Intake Medical Examination Settled By Los Angeles County For $700,000

by John E. Dannenberg

The Los Angeles County Claims Board settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $700,000 in December 2006 that resulted from a jail prisoner dying after not being given his intake medical examination for three weeks.

On September 21, 2003, Los Angeles County jail prisoner William Wilson, 62, was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and spousal abuse. On September 24, he was examined by the county jail's intake nurse and noted to be so confused he could not give his name or age; he also suffered from mild hypertension. Nurses scheduled him for an "age 55 protocol," i.e., more extensive medical examination. Notwithstanding his obvious condition, he was discharged and sent to his housing without ever getting the exam or seeing a physician. The next day, staff realized that Wilson had not been seen and placed an order for the exam. However, they failed to communicate with the housing unit and Wilson was never medically examined.

On October 10, Wilson's wife visited him, and observed Wilson grabbing his chest and doubling over in pain. She reported this to deputies, who assured her he would be taken to the clinic. He was not. On October 14, Wilson suffered chest pain, and was found lying on the floor. He was taken to the outside hospital, but died on the way. Death was due to pulmonary emboli (lung blood clots) caused by deep vein thrombosis (clots in leg veins).

Wilson's wife sued for deliberate indifference, violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, negligence, failure to summon medical care and wrongful death. She contended that if Wilson had been seen at intake, he could readily have been treated and saved. County officials estimated that their liability exposure could exceed $1.5 million and agreed to settle the claim for $700,000. The county also had its own costs of $181,736 defending the action. See: Wilson v. County of Los Angeles, U.S.D.C. CD CA, Case No. CV 04-08309 JWJx.

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Related legal case

Wilson v. County of Los Angeles