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$8.15 Million Jury Award for Prisoner’s Death at New York Jail

$8.15 Million Jury Award for Prisoner’s Death at New York Jail

by David Reutter

A New York City jury awarded $8.15 million to the estate of a prisoner who died after being denied access to medical care.

While incarcerated in 1996 at the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center, part of the Rikers Island complex, Jose Santiago, 25, told a guard he was experiencing symptoms that included a rapid heartbeat, profuse perspiration and difficulty breathing. The guard dismissed Santiago’s request for treatment at the facility’s clinic.

Just 30 minutes later, moments before he collapsed, Santiago again approached the same guard who again refused to help him. Santiago’s pulse could not be detected when medical staff arrived, so they started CPR and summoned emergency medical technicians. The emergency responders did not arrive until 30 minutes later, and pronounced Santiago dead after their life-saving efforts failed.

Following his October 24, 1996 death, Santiago’s estate, represented by a public administrator, sued the City of New York and the city’s Department of Correction.

The estate’s emergency medical expert, Rachael L. Waldron, opined that Santiago’s symptoms were caused by atrial fibrillation. She said his symptoms indicated he was receiving insufficient oxygen and his heart could have been stabilized with simple defibrillation, which was available in the jail’s clinic but not utilized.

Waldron also opined that medical staff failed to properly administer CPR and delayed treatment by not directing the emergency technicians to Santiago’s location. She concluded that Santiago’s death was due to lack of proper medical care.

During the litigation, the trial court sanctioned the defendants for failing to exchange information in discovery.

Santiago’s death left his 4-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter without a father. The case went to trial in June 2013, and after ten days the jury unanimously found that employees at the jail were negligent.

The jurors awarded $150,000 for past loss of household services and $200,000 for economic losses; $4 million was awarded to Santiago’s daughter and $3.8 million to his son for loss of parental guidance. The estate was represented by attorney Michael J. Kuharski. See: Rodriguez v. City of New York, Bronx Supreme Court (NY), Case No. 24068/98.

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Related legal case

Rodriguez v. City of New York