by Matthew Clarke
In January 2018, the City of Cleveland Heights, Ohio agreed to pay $200,000 to settle a lawsuit over the death of a prisoner two days after she arrived at the city’s jail.
Ralkina Jones, 37, was booked into the facility on charges of assaulting her ex-husband with a tire iron in late June 2015. She was taken to a HealthSpan urgent care facility, then returned to the jail. Later, she was discovered dead in her cell.
Jones’ family filed suit against the city and HealthSpan. HealthSpan settled its part of the case for $10,000. The city settled for $200,000, but the amount was not revealed until March 2018. About 45 percent of the total settlement was used to pay attorney fees and costs.
Court documents stated that Jones could be seen on body camera footage emphasizing that she must take her prescription medication. Jail staff gave her drugs, but failed to properly document what they gave her and when it was given.
According to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court, “Ralkina Jones clearly communicated her medical conditions to the Defendants and specifically expressed the importance of taking her medication as prescribed. Ralkina Jones also explicitly requested that her medication be properly documented so that there were no issues as shifts changed, and articulated her concern that she did not want to die while in the Defendants’ custody. Despite Ralkina Jones’ clear request that her health needs be properly managed, the Defendants did not [take her] needs seriously, characterizing her requests as her ‘acting up,’ and failing to follow established standards regarding the documentation of administration of medication.”
The complaint noted that there were “considerable discrepancies between medical log sheets and daily jail logs, suggesting that Ralkina Jones was improperly medicated.”
The City of Cleveland Heights’ law office released a statement, saying, “We note that the Medical Log Sheet reflects fewer medications dispensed to Ms. Jones than documented in the Jail Log. This matter is under investigation along with the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s investigation of the cause of Ms. Jones’s death.”
The suit also claimed that the jail surveillance video recording contained gaps, and staff did not check on Jones for more than six hours after her return from the urgent care facility despite a policy that required hourly checks.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner ruled her death accidental, finding she had experienced sudden cardiac death associated with postural tachycardia syndrome and obesity with amphetamine therapy. See: Samuels v. City of Cleveland Heights, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 1:16-cv-01786-CAB.
Additional sources: www.cleveland.com, www.nbcnews.com
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Related legal case
Samuels v. City of Cleveland Heights
|U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 1:16-cv-01786-CAB