Sheriff, Guards and Employees May be Sued for Failing to Provide Medical Care to Inmate

Torts - 42 USC 1983 Claim - Prisoner's Constitutional Right to Medical Care

Braillard v. Maricopa County, 583 Ariz. Adv. Rep. 8 (App. Div. I, May 27, 2010) (J. Vasquez)

DAUGHTER HAS STANDING TO BRING WRONGFUL DEATH AND 42 USC 1983 SURVIVAL ACTION AGAINST GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES FOR FAILING TO ADEQUATELY SCREEN, MONITOR AND PROVIDE MEDICAL CARE TO MOTHER RESULTING IN HER DEATH AND MAY RECOVER PAIN AND SUFFERING AND PUNITIVE DAMAGES AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES BUT MAY NOT SUE THE MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE AS IT IS A NONJURAL ENTITY

Plaintiff brought a wrongful death and survival action for the death of her mother pursuant to 42 USC sec. 1983 and Arizona's Wrongful Death statute against Maricopa County, the Maricopa County Sheriff Arpaio, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and seven individual MCSO and county employees. On January 1, 2005 plaintiff's mother was arrested for suspicion of drug possession and allegedly due to improper intake and monitoring and a failure to administer insulin injections for diabetes which ultimately resulted in plaintiff's decedent's death. Defendants obtained Summary Judgment at the trial court level.On appeal the Court of Appeals ruled that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is a nonjural entity and not subject to suit and was thus properly dismissed by the trial court. However, the granting of summary judgment for the remaining defendants was overturned by the Court of Appeals for the following reasons.First, the court noted that our courts have long held a prisoner has a constitutional right to medical care. Here the plaintiff submitted ample evidence that the intake interview by the County of plaintiff's mother lasted less than a minute and failed to identify the fact plaintiff's mother was a diabetic and needed insulin treatment. Thereafter the plaintiff proved, her mother became very ill, could not go to dinner, vomited, worried other inmates who complained to guards and was routinely ignored by defendants until she became so ill that she required hospitalization and died. This evidence was adequate to establish plaintiff's right to recover for the wrongful death of her mother under state law and the "deliberate indifference" to a known constitutional right "under color of law" justifying a 42 USC 1983 claim. Further under the 1983 claim the plaintiff was not barred from recovering punitive damages against the government defendants despite the state immunity statute ARS sec. 12-820.04 protecting them because this statute only protects the government employees acting in their official capacities whereas 1983 allows recovery against the individuals for their individual wrongdoing performed only "under the color of state law." Similarly, pain and suffering damages are recoverable by plaintiff under 1983.

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