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Colorado County Sheriff, Jail Nurse Liable For Detainee's Leg Amputation, Illness

Park County (Colorado) Jail detainee and Mexico citizen Moises Reyes brought § 1983 and state law action against the Park County Board of County Commissioners (BCC), Sheriff Fred Wegener, Captain Monte Gore and nurse Vickie Paulsen after losing his leg to infection in 2003. Claims against Wegener, Gore and Paulsen for inhumane conditions of confinement, inadequate medical care and negligence were allowed to proceed.

Reyes was arrested in 2003 and the Immigration and Naturalization Service contracted his custody to the jail, which the BCC was aware was a regular practice, leading to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions. Many detainees became ill and were not allowed daily underwear changes or cleaning supplies. Reyes repeatedly attempted to acquire medical treatment for an entire week. Nurse Paulsen claimed that he was suffering from elevated altitude complications and did nothing. After Reyes collapsed, and while awaiting transport for several hour, Paulsen left the jail and went home. When Reyes was finally admitted to Summit Medical Center he was diagnosed with pneumonia caused by streptococcus Group A bacteria, septic shock, hypokalemia and was experiencing multi organ dysfunction. He brought action and the defendants moved for summary judgment dismissal.

The U.S., District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that Wegener and Gore were liable for inhumane conditions of confinement and that nurse Paulsen was liable for inadequate medical care and negligence. The BCC's liability was dismissed because they are separate government officials under art. XIV of the Colorado Constitution than the sheriff, who, under C.R.S. § 30 10 511, has the authority and responsibility to oversee county jails and has tortious liability for his deputies' actions. See: Reyes v. Park County Board of County Commissioners, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 60495.

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Related legal case

Reyes v. Park County Board of County Commissioners