Alameda County and a company that provides health care to jail inmates agreed to pay $8.3 million to settle a federal lawsuit filed by the four adult children of an inmate who died in 2010 after sheriff’s deputies stunned him with Tasers during a confrontation. The county and Corizon Health Inc., the health care contractor at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, will split the costs of the payout in connection with the death of Martin Harrison, a 50-year-old Oakland resident who died while in the midst of alcohol withdrawal. The deal, reached after the first week of the family’s civil trial, is the largest wrongful death settlement in a civil rights case in state history, according to the family’s attorneys. Under the settlement, Corizon agreed to implement changes in how it staffs jails throughout the state, including in facilities in Santa Barbara, Tulare and Fresno counties, said the family’s attorneys, Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin. At a news conference with their attorneys Tuesday in Oakland, the four adult children described their loss and the changes they hoped their father’s death would bring. Haddad said Corizon, in a bid to cut costs, endangered jail inmates by hiring licensed vocational nurses instead of registered nurses. In a statement Tuesday, Corizon officials said Martin Harrison did not alert the nurse about any history of alcohol withdrawal and that its employee “followed best practice and standard medical systems of checking on the patient for any complications.” The company said its goal was to “provide quality health care to patients who enter incarceration with more illnesses and chronic conditions than the general population.” The nurse initially decided to put him on alcohol withdrawal protocols but changed her mind, sending him into the general jail population with no medical follow-up, the attorney said.
This is apparently the largest civil rights settlement ever reached in the State of California. The case involved an inmate suffering from alcohol withdrawal who was repeatedly tazed by sheriff’s deputies until he died.