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$3.5 Million Paid To Estate Of Iowa Jail Detainee Who Suffered Seizure And Died When Left Unattended

by Keith Sanders

On March 14, 2022, an Iowa court awarded $3.5 million to the estate of a pretrial detainee who suffered a seizure and was left to die in the Cerro Gordo County Jail (CGCJ).

Ricky Christianson was arrested for a probation violation and taken to the jail on November 17, 2020. He informed staff that he suffered from life-threatening seizures and that the arresting officer had not let him bring his anti-seizure medication. Christianson also warned jail officials that he had just suffered a seizure the previous day.

The next morning around 7:00 a.m., Christianson had another seizure. Jailers left him on the floor inside a padded cell. Iowa Administrative Code 50.13(2), (a)(3) requires hourly checks, except for prisoners “considered to be in physical jeopardy because of physical or mental condition,” who “shall be checked personally at least every 30 minutes until the condition is alleviated.” However, surveillance video revealed that Christianson was left unattended for the next 91 minutes. When staff finally checked on him, the 59-year-old was dead.

Christianson’s children filed suit in Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County for his wrongful death, accusing the county and six jail officials of violating his rights under the state constitution with their deliberate indifference and reckless negligence regarding Christianson’s life-threatening medical needs.

Jail logs and video footage, the suit alleged, showed that officials incorrectly reported Christianson’s housing and lied about checking on him. By not evaluating Christianson’s medical condition or providing treatment, the suit continued, jail officials also violated or ignored at least eight other Iowa Administrative Codes.

Before trial was set to begin, the County settled with Christianson’s estate. On March 14, 2022, Judge Gregg Rosenbladt then ordered Defendants to pay $3.5 million in agreed-upon damages. That amount included fees and costs for Plaintiffs’ attorney, Dave O’Brien of Cedar Rapids. See: Bashir v. Cerro Gordo Cty., Iowa Dist. (Cerro Gordo Cty.), Case No: ESPR031353. 

Additional source: Des Moines Register

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