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$1,250,000 Paid by Santa Clara County to Family of Man Who Died after Being Denied Oxygen at County Jail

By Chuck Sharman


On April 20, 2018, a settlement was entered into by Santa Clara County, California, agreeing to pay $1,250,000 to the survivors of a man who died after being denied medically necessary oxygen treatment at the county jail.

The dead man, Ryan Bascos, was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in court and taken to the county jail on April 21, 2016. That was just about six months after he was diagnosed with “an enlarged heart, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, asthma, shortness of breath and difficulty walking due to his heart problems,” his survivors’ lawsuit noted.

In fact, he had been hospitalized on January 5, 2016, leaving six days later with a prescription for “continuous home oxygen” use at a flow-rate of four liters per minute (LPM). But the arresting officers refused to let Bascos take his oxygen equipment with him to jail.

Once he got there a jail nurse, Yolanda Ramirez, gave him an intake medical assessment, during which he told her about his diagnosis and oxygen prescription. At this point, jail policy dictated that Bascos should have been sent to a hospital to be cleared for admittance at the jail.

But Ramirez didn’t do that, handing off the problem to another jail nurse, Kimhoang Truong. She later got a phone call from another jail healthcare provider, Dr. Sean Kanakaraj, ordering prescription medication to treat Bascos—but not oxygen.

By the time his blood oxygen concentration (BOC) was checked late that night by another jail nurse, Elizabeth Santos, it had fallen to a “dangerously low 86%,” the complaint recalled. He was at last placed on oxygen, but only at three LPM. Still, by the next morning, he seemed alert to a fourth jail nurse, Belinda Devano.

That’s when the jail medical staff allegedly began trying to “wean” Bascos off oxygen, reducing the flow he received from three LPM, then two, then one before eventually “experimenting with room air only,” the complaint said.

Before he left for the weekend on April 22, 2016, Dr. Kanakaraj refused to increase Bascos’ oxygen flow back to four LPM. The next morning, two nurses on duty—Amor Caubang and Derrick Cosca—also failed to increase the flow rate, despite Bascos’ plummeting BOC.

By the evening of April 23, 2016, Bascos’ pulse had shot up to 109. The next morning it was 110, and his BOC was down to 91%. By then Dr. Kanakaraj had returned to work, but he still didn’t increase Bascos’ oxygen flow rate.

The next evening, April 25, 2016, seeing was Bascos in “acute respiratory distress,” Kanakaraj finally sent him to a hospital emergency room—though by non-emergency transport. After Bascos finally arrived, it took less than three hours for staff to pronounce him dead.

On February 22, 2017, Bascos’ mother, Fely Razon, filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of herself and his minor children, Nevaeh and Ayden, represented through their mother, Leila Segui, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, accusing the county and its jail healthcare staff of negligence and deliberate indifference. The county responded on February 5, 2018, denying the allegations. The parties then reached their settlement agreement.

The settlement agreement provides $650,000 payable immediately to the plaintiffs plus another $600,000 to fund future payments. Plaintiffs were represented in their suit by attorneys Michael J. Haddad, Julia Sherwin, Maya Sorenson and Teresa Allen of the Oakland firm of Haddad & Sherwin.

See: Razon v. Cnty. of Santa Clara, Case No. 17-CV-00869-LHK (N.D. Cal. Jan. 12, 2018).

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Related legal case

Razon v. Cnty. of Santa Clara