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Rikers Island Death Case Against City of New York Settles for $5.5 Million

Eva Luckey, a prisoner at Rikers Island, New York, jailed for petit larceny, died in April 2002, because of negligence on the part of jail staff to provide her with the prescription medication needed to control her asthma, and failed to perform CPR on her when she went into respiratory distress.

The December 2019 settlement ended a multiyear legal odyssey, which initially saw the medical providers found guilty of negligence for failure to prescribe needed medication, but also the dismissal of Section 1983 civil rights and negligence claims against other defendants. Luckey’s attorney, Richard Gross of the New York law firm of Rubert & Gross, P.C., appealed, and the court reinstated the dismissed counts, setting the stage for the settlement.

As noted by Prison Legal News in April 2015, the appellate court’s decision found that New York could be held liable for failure “to protect decedent from reasonably foreseeable harm in providing emergency medical assistance once she complained of difficulty breathing and otherwise exhibited signs of an asthma attack.” Luckey had been jailed after she could not post a $500 bond.

Expert medical testimony had noted that Luckey had been on prescription asthma medication for two weeks prior to her arrest, but that upon her admission she was only provided rescue medication by the jail.

Jail personnel and medical staff failed to note that she suffered from a low peak expiratory flow rate, which was a departure from good and accepted medical practice. It also was established that there was a failure to properly train and supervise personnel, as well as the failure to promptly initiate CPR. 

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Related legal case

Luckey v. City of New York