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$245,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Death

In what one lawyer described as round one, Michigan’s Lenawee County has paid $245,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging that the deficient medical care at the County’s jail caused a prisoner’s death.

The 24 page second amended complaint in the action begins with an outline of a County that was overwhelmed by the costs to provide staff and medical at its new jail. Since adequate staff had to be provided, the medical care was sacrificed.

Left behind were costly prescription medications and nursing. When a prisoner entered the jail under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol, they would be denied life-sustaining medications. The Lenawee County Jail (LCJ) received only 2.6 hours of nursing care per day for a total of 18.5 hours per week.

The complaint detailed several instances of prisoners being deprived of medical even where it was obvious they had serious medical needs. One situation involved a prisoner entering the jail on October of 2006 with a broken right fibula. Despite excessive swelling and the leg turning black and purple, proper care was not rendered until May 2007 when the prisoner was taken to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

It was into this atmosphere that Yolanda Flores entered CCJ on December 11, 2006. She was arrested for two war-rants based upon writing checks without an account. Upon booking, Flores advised guard Ryan Toadvine that she was a “type II insulin dependent diabetic.” She also had other medical issues that Toadvine failed to record.

On December 12, Flores advised guard Paul Dye that she had not received her medication and was in dire need of it. Rather than have her referred to medical to provide these medications, Dye followed the policy that saved the County money: He allowed the family of “a known intravenous drug user” to bring medications that had no chain of custody to the jail.

In addition to jail personnel having prior knowledge of Flores’s serious medical conditions that were treated during previous incarcerations at the jail, the medications brought to the jail were for hypertension, congestive heart failure and diabetes. Staff, however, became too busy to provide those medications to Flores in her isolation cell.

Rather than attribute Flores’s pleas for help as one for needed medical care, guards considered her to be in the throes of heroin withdrawal. Other detainees heard guard Adam Ondovick yell in response to Flores to “shut the fuck up you junky, go lay down and sleep it off, I am sick of you bothering me.”

Around 10:20 a.m., guard David Borton asked Flores if she wanted her medications. He said he would be back with them, but he became busy with other matters. About an hour later, Flores died in her cell on December 13, 2006.

Flores’s estate settled with Lenawee County on August 11, 2009. As many as 6 to 10 more lawsuits are expected against the County. “This is the conclusion of round one. We’re just getting started,” said Craig Tank, the Flores estate’s attorney. See: Flores v. Lenawee County, USDC, E.D. Michigan, Case No. 07-cv-11288.

Additional source: Daily Telegram

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Related legal case

Flores v. Lenawee County

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.