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$8.3 Million Awarded in California Jail Death Lawsuit

February 16, 2015 — The Contra Costa Times reports that a record-setting $8.3 million has been awarded to the family of a man who died in jail custody in 2010.

It is the largest civil rights settlement for a wrongful death in California’s history, breaking last year’s $5 million settlement to the family of an unarmed man who was shot by the LAPD.

The man, 50 year-old Martin Harrison of Oakland, California, was arrested for jaywalking and an outstanding DUI warrant. During intake at the Santa Rita Jail, he was evaluated by an unsupervised licensed vocational nurse (LVN) despite state law requiring that a registered nurse (RN) perform the initial medical assessment.

The LVN released Harrison into the general jail population without supervision. Harrison’s family says he should have been hospitalized.

Three days later, Harrison went into severe alcohol withdrawal, developed delirium tremens, and started hallucinating. After an altercation, he was Tased and beaten by ten deputies. He died two days later.

Corizon Health, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of health services for jails, holds a $210 million contract with Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer jails.

Attorneys for Harrison accused Corizon of using LVNs for medical intake and paying them 35% less than RNs to cut costs. Corizon was also accused of falsely reporting that they were using RNs when they received accreditation from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. As part of the settlement, Corizon has agreed to only use RNs for medical intake.

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