$1.35 Million Award in Montana Jail Prisoner’s Alcohol Withdrawal Death
by David M. Reutter
The Montana Human Rights Commission (MHRC) awarded $1.35 million for a pre-trial detainee’s death after finding county jail officials showed “discriminatory indifference” for failing to treat the prisoner’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Allen J. Longsoldier, Jr., 18, a Native American, returned home from college in November 2009 to attend his grandfather’s funeral. He was arrested in Blaine County on a warrant for contempt of court for failure to report to his juvenile probation officer.
The day after his November 19 arrest, staff at the Hill County Detention Center noticed that Longsoldier, who suffered from alcoholism, was experiencing alcohol withdrawal and hallucinations and was unable to sleep. The Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, which housed its prisoners in Hill County, authorized Longsoldier to be transported to the Indian Health Service for treatment. Staff there had him taken to a hospital.
After examination, a doctor prescribed Antiven and Cymbalta to address Longsoldier’s symptoms. The doctor ordered six doses of Antiven to be given to the deputy accompanying Longsoldier, which Longsoldier was to receive every four hours. The deputy did not get the Antiven, however, nor were the prescriptions ever filled.
Longsoldier was returned to the jail at around 9 p.m. on November 20, 2009. By 3:00 a.m. the next morning, jail staff called Blaine County’s dispatcher to advise he had not eaten, had the dry heaves and was “hot, burning up.” A call to a hospital resulted in an ER nurse saying Longsoldier’s blood work showed no sign of illness, and she speculated he was “playing them.”
For the next 20 hours, Longsoldier suffered DTs and hallucinations. Late that night he was finally taken to a hospital after being found “shivering and unresponsive” in his cell. He died about two hours later, on November 22.
His family filed a complaint after a coroner’s inquest found the jail guards could not be held criminally liable. A hearing officer decided that Longsoldier had not been discriminated against but the MHRC reversed, finding there was “no reasonable grounds to excuse failure of law enforcement to fill his prescriptions and ensure that they were administered as directed by the treating physician.”
Following remand, the hearing officer found Longsoldier had suffered for 6 hours and awarded $300,000 for emotional distress against Blaine and Hill counties. On review, the MHRC held Longsoldier had suffered for 27 hours and awarded $1.35 million with directions that the jail staff receive training on “symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and the care of incarcerated persons experiencing withdrawal symptoms.” See: Stickler v. Blaine Co., Montana Human Rights Commission, No. 0105014403.
Additional sources: Associated Press, www.havredailynews.com
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Related legal case
Stickler v. Blaine Co.
|Cite||Montana Human Rights Commission, No. 0105014403.|