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CMS Pays $275,000 in New York Prisoner’s Jail Death

Correctional Medical Services (CMS) has agreed to pay $275,000 to settle a lawsuit related to a prisoner’s death. The suit, which was filed in New York’s Monroe County Supreme Court and then removed to federal court, alleged negligence, medical malpractice and deliberate indifference.

Orlando Samuels was booked into the Monroe County Jail (MCJ) on April 27, 2007 for a parole violation. He informed employees with MCJ’s medical contractor, CMS, that he had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and a heart condition; he also told them he was prescribed and taking nitroglycerin, enalapril, Lipitor, aspirin and isosorbide to treat those conditions.

Other than his nitroglycerin, Samuels was not given any medication during his nine-day stay at MCJ. He made re-peated verbal requests and submitted sick call slips seeking his medications, but did not see a doctor until May 4, 2007. At that time the doctor wrote prescriptions to treat Samuels’ conditions.

Shortly after 7:00 a.m. the next day, Samuels informed a guard that he was experiencing chest pain and needed medical assistance. A CMS nurse responded at 7:12 a.m., and she and the guard took Samuels to the booking area. About eight minutes later, CMS employee Dr. Michael Latunji was advised of the situation. He prescribed aspirin but there was no record it was received by Samuels.

Around 7:30 a.m., Samuels collapsed due to a heart attack. Attempts to revive him failed, partly due to a defective battery in the jail’s automated external defibrillator. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Samuels’ estate filed suit and CMS’s medical malpractice insurer, Everest Indemnity Insurance Company, took over the defense and indemnified the county defendants. The parties reached a settlement agreement on May 31, 2011.

Samuels’ estate accepted $275,000 to settle the case due to the risks of the litigation. Specifically, CMS had experts who would testify that Samuels’ history of cocaine and alcohol abuse precluded CMS’s liability. The conscious pain and suffering he endured was minimal, and loss of parental guidance for his 14-year-old daughter was compromised due to his criminal history and likelihood of returning to prison on the parole violation. Finally, Samuels was unemployed and receiving public assistance.

Of the settlement, the lawyer representing Samuels’ estate, Mark J. Valerio, will receive $88,472.05 in attorney fees and $9,583.86 for disbursements. The Monroe County Department of Social Services will be reimbursed $19,428.25 for public assistance that Samuels received between 2004 and 2007.

The parties moved to seal the details of the settlement agreement but the district court refused, citing “a well-established presumption favoring full and complete access to court proceedings and judicial documents.” See: Samuels v. County of Monroe, U.S.D.C. (W.D. NY), Case No. 6:09-cv-06223-MAT-MWP.

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Related legal case

Samuels v. County of Monroe