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$1 Million Paid by Santa Clara County to Estate of Alzheimer’s Patient Killed When He Wandered onto Interstate Highway after Release from County Jail

By Chuck Sharman

A $1 million settlement was signed on April 14, 2018, by attorneys for Santa Clara County, California, to settle a wrongful death claim made by the surviving heir of an Alzheimer’s patient who was killed when he wandered onto an Interstate highway after being released alone from the county jail.

The man, Valdimir Matyssik, was arrested on April 16, 2015, after a report that he was “behaving in a bizarre manner” at a Jewish community center in Los Gatos, California, according to a federal lawsuit filed by his estate. He was released and ordered to make a court appearance the following July. When he forgot about that, a warrant was issued for his arrest on October 22, 2015.

Sometime over the next 10 days, he was picked up by law enforcement and taken to the county jail to await an appearance at Santa Clara County Superior Court. While in custody, he lost access to his prescription medication for his Alzheimer’s. A friend, Michael Pavlov, then presented documentation of the condition to a judge, who dismissed the case against Matyssik and ordered his release.

Despite assurances jail staff made to Pavlov that they would have Matyssik ready for pickup at 9:00 p.m. on November 5, 2015, they couldn’t find him when Pavolv arrived. Assuming he had been released earlier in the day, his family filed a missing person report with the Los Gatos Police Department.

In reality, Matyssik was not released until the following morning, around 7:00 a.m. on November 6, 2015. All alone, he wandered nearly nine miles over the next ten hours and onto a stretch of Interstate 880, where he was fatally struck by a car driven by Christine Jiuen Choi.

On August 15, 2016, the dead man’s heiress, Kristina Matysik, filed suit on behalf of his estate in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing the County and Sheriff Laurie Smith of violating his constitutional right to enjoy due process and protection from cruel and unusual punishment, as well as negligence leading to his wrongful death.

The county responded on April 25, 2017, denying the allegations. The parties then reached their settlement agreement, which does not affect a companion claim made in Matysik’s suit of negligence and wrongful death against Choi. Matysik was represented by attorney Albert G. Stoll, Jr. and another attorney with his San Francisco firm, Walter A. Haynes IV.

See: Matysik v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, Case No. 16-CV-06223-LHK (N.D. Cal. Feb. 6, 2018).

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Related legal case

Matysik v. Cnty. of Santa Clara