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Colorado Detainee Tasered During Seizure, Paid $116,731.73 and $83,268.27 in Fees

A Colorado detainee settled his medical neglect and excessive force suit within four months of filing for $116,731.73 in damages and $83,268.27 in attorney’s fees.

On July 26, 2006, Michael R. Martin was booked into Colorado’s Adams County Detention Facility (ACDF). He was on a high dosage of Xanax for anxiety attacks and, during booking, he warned two nurses that his doctor said that abruptly discontinuing the medication could have serious, negative medical consequences.

ACDF terminated Martin’s Xanax, however, and he “predictably began to experience withdrawal symptoms” almost immediately. He reported symptoms of agitation, jitteriness and increased anxiety and nervousness, but ACDF staff did nothing. As his symptoms worsened, “Martin began feeling extremely nauseous, experiencing panic attacks and the in-ability to eat or drink.” Martin repeatedly told ACDF staff that he was suffering severe withdrawal symptoms over the course of several hours.

As Martin’s nausea became more acute, he began experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. He “began overheating and his skin turned a very noticeable bright red color.” He began hallucinating and lost track of time.

On July 28, 2006, Martin attempted to write a medical kite, but wrote only “gibberish.” Seeing Nurse Tammy Beard nearby, Martin called out, “Help me, help me.” He fell and “began uncontrollably shaking and spitting fluid and blood out of his mouth.”

Beard knew Martin was actively seizing and several prisoners began yelling “seizure” to get additional staff assistance. Four or five guards responded, and Beard told them Martin was having a seizure.

Martin was seizing so violently that Beard put a blanket between his head and the floor so he wouldn’t hurt himself more. Guard David Morrow and others began yelling repeatedly “stop resisting” despite being fully aware that he “was seizing and experiencing a medical emergency.” When Martin did not – and could not – respond, guards Joseph McMullen, Gregory Gillett, Daniel Seier, Kevin Trimble and Morrow forcibly restrained Martin.

Morrow continued to yell “stop moving” and forced Martin onto his stomach so he was lying face down, in order to pin him. Seier, Trimble and Gillett held Martin’s legs while Morrow and McMullen held his arms.

McMullen attempted to handcuff Martin during the seizure. When he couldn’t, Morrow pulled his Taser and administered two electroshocks to Martin’s back, between his shoulder blades. Martin was still in the throes of a seizure when he was tased.

Martin lost control of his bowel function and was rendered unconscious. He remained in a coma-like state for ap-proximately 2-5 hours. When Martin regained consciousness he was disoriented, “experienced an explosive pain emanating from between his shoulder blades, as well as pain in his spine, neck, ribs, hips and knee. He was unable to speak and observed bruising all over his body.” The Taser prongs had to be “surgically removed from his back, leaving several large wounds between his shoulder blades.”

For several weeks, Martin experienced “sharp ringing in his ears, blurred vision, headaches, numbness in his extremities, slurred speech, memory loss, numbness in his face and tongue, nightmares, lack of an ability to concentrate and continued pain in his back, shoulders and spine.” Two years later, Martin still suffered from “severe headaches and such severe back pain that he often has to change his gait … to reduce the pain.” He still suffers ringing in the ears, impaired sight, “severe and lasting memory loss, an inability to concentrate, speech problems and overall impaired mental processes.” He stutters and has “difficulties with elementary spelling and grammar.” He has become significantly withdrawn, tense, and depressed, and suffers self-esteem problems as a result of the incident.

On December 9, 2008, Martin brought suit in federal court. He filed an amended complaint on February 13, 2009, alleging deficient medical care and excessive force claims. Within two months, Defendants settled the case “solely for the purpose of avoiding the burden and expense of further litigation.” Defendants refused to admit liability but paid Mar-tin $116,731.73 in damages and $83,268.27 in attorney’s fees. They also agreed to mandatory training for all correc-tions staff in: (1) “recognition of and appropriate action to take in response to symptoms of chemical withdrawal, up to and including seizure”; and (2) “appropriate use of Tasers and dangers associated with the use of Tasers.” See: Martin v. Adams County Bd. Of Commns., USDC No. 08-CV-01585-REB-BNB (D. Co. 2009).

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Related legal case

Martin v. Adams County Bd. Of Commns.

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