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$2 Million Settlement in Mailman’s Death at New York City Jail

The City of New York has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that deliberate indifference resulted in the death of a pretrial detainee.

The settlement came in a federal civil rights action filed by the estate of Oswald Livermore. Livermore, 51, was booked into the Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC) on May 9, 2007 after being arrested and charged with a misdemeanor related to a family dispute.

During the intake medical screening, it was revealed that Livermore suffered from active and severe alcoholism and that he was a current and chronic alcohol abuser. Despite this revelation, Dr. Mohammad Akhtar and Physician Assistant John McCready, both of whom were employed by MDC’s medical contractor, Prison Health Services (PHS), failed to follow MDC’s alcohol protocol and sound medical practices for detainees who might be undergoing alcohol withdrawal.

Rather than following proper protocol and placing Livermore in an infirmary setting where medical staff could monitor his condition, Akhtar and McCready cleared him to be housed in MDC’s general population. They also failed to provide him with medication to treat alcohol withdrawal.

The next day a guard referred Livermore to the medical clinic due to a “radical change” in his behavior. He was seen by Roberto Chavez, a PHS Mental Health Clinician. Chavez noted Livermore had a history of alcoholism, but failed to evaluate or treat the clear signs and symptoms of his alcohol withdrawal. Chavez then sent Livermore back to his cell without medical treatment.

Several hours later, Captain Sardia Lewis referred Livermore to MDC’s clinic for treatment and evaluation of his “bizarre behavior.” Akhtar and McCready again examined Livermore but provided no treatment and returned him to his cell.

Shortly afterwards, “Livermore, obviously disoriented, confused and in acute distress, began running in a disturbed fashion about the common areas of [the] housing area.” A “probe team” was sent in, which forcibly grabbed Livermore, restrained him, forced his arms behind his back, threw him to the floor face-first and then held him face down with his hands cuffed behind his back.

During the use of force and restraint, Livermore became unresponsive and stopped breathing. Efforts by medical staff to revive him were unsuccessful and Livermore was pronounced dead after being taken to a local hospital. A medical examiner determined the cause of death to be “cardiac arrhythmia complicating delirium tremens due to ethanol withdrawal complicating chronic alcoholism.”

An investigation by the New York State Commission of Correction found Livermore’s death “may have been prevented had he received timely medical diagnosis and treatment.” It also found that PHS staff “failed to follow policy for patients with histories of alcohol abuse.”

The Commission further wrote it was remarkable that McCready “failed to recognize a patient with a known alcohol history who presented to medical/mental health services twice within two hours with acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome with delirium tremens,” and that he “fail[ed] to query referring officers and to make a competent diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal syndrome.”

The city’s $2 million settlement with Livermore’s estate was likely increased due to the fact that Livermore had been employed for more than 25 years with the U.S. Postal Service. His estate was represented by the law firm of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady and the Legal Aid Society, both located in New York City. See: Livermore v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 1:08-cv-04442-NRB.

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Related legal case

Livermore v. City of New York