Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Jail Suicide Suit Rejected by Nebraska's Courts

by Ed Lyon

Gage County, Nebraska, pretrial detainee Chad Gesin hanged himself in a jail cell in 2013, shortly after being booked for domestic assault and third-degree assault. Five days later, he died.

Gesin had been placed in a sobering cell until his intoxication level subsided.

During the booking process, Gesin asked questions about bail procedures and whether court would be open the next day. He indicated he would behave himself and not cause jail staff any trouble.

Gesin had a prior arrest in 2011 wherein he stabbed himself nine times, causing shallow wounds. He spent three days in a hospital before being discharged, with the initial charges being dismissed.

He was intoxicated during both episodes.

A lawsuit was filed by estate administrator Rhonda Reiber, primarily on a negligence platform, under the Nebraska Political Subdivisions Tort Claim Act (PSTCA), with a plethora of other sub-causes of action under 42 USC § 1983, in state court. The suit was removed to federal court, which dismissed all actionable causes except the PSTCA, then remanded it back to the state court.

The suit alleges failure to supervise, that the sheriff's department knew of Gesin's suicidal tendencies, and that Gesin's girlfriend told jail staff this as well.

After trial in the state court, it was found that jail staff afforded Gage due care under jail policies. Even if there had been any policy violations, there were no indications Gage might try to commit suicide. Either way, § 13-910(1) of the PSTLA would bar such a lawsuit.

Appeal was taken. Nebraska’s Supreme Court removed the appeal to its forum to alleviate a heavy caseload on the appeal courts.

Both appeal points challenged the trial court’s allowance of testimony about Gage from a psychiatrist. The court, however, found the psychiatrist was a competent witness, and the lower court did not abuse its discretion by allowing his testimony. The lower court’s dismissal was affirmed. See: Reiber v. County of Gage, et. al, Case No. S-18-692 (Neb. S.Ct. 2019)

Additional source:

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Reiber v. County of Gage, et. al