Lawsuit Alleging Nassau Jail at Fault for Veteran's Death Goes to TrialNov 14, 2016
Veteran's Family Represented by Parker Waichman LLP
Nicholas Warywoda, an attorney with Parker Waichman LLP, is representing the family of Bartholomew Ryan, an Iraq War veteran who committed suicide while in Armor Correctional Health Services in 2012. The lawsuit, which went to trial on Nov. 10, alleges that the Nassau jail's medical provider failed to properly treat the veteran after he was deemed a suicide risk. The wrongful-death lawsuit names Armor Correctional Health Services, Nassau County, its jail and sheriff's department as defendants.
Ryan was honorably discharged from the Marine Corps. In the aftermath, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder and anxiety. Furthermore, Mr. Warywoda explained, he developed an opioid addiction after being prescribed painkillers for an old boot camp groin injury. He became a heroin user afterwards. His family alleges that Armor failed to attend to the veteran's medical needs. The facility is accused of violating his constitutional right to be free of cruel and unusual punishment.
"Bart made a commitment to defend our country . . . he did his job . . . and because of that, he suffered mental issues," Warywoda said.
"When it came time for Armor to protect the health and safety of Bart, they failed him," the Parker Waichman attorney said to jurors. "He was deemed a suicide risk, and if they had just followed that finding, we wouldn't be here today."
Since Armor won a contract in 2011, it has been hit with four lawsuits filed on behalf of families of inmates who died at the jail. In those four deaths. The state Commission of Correction found that Armor's care to be inadequate, Newsday reports.
Jurors heard that most of the liability rests with Armor, but Warywoda also explained that Nassau County is partly liable because officials "failed to properly train their correction officers."
Lawsuit Alleges Armor Correctional Health Services Failed to Prevent Suicide
Parker Waichman filed the wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of Ryan's family in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Index no. 2:12-cv-05343).
Bartholomew Ryan was 32-years-old when he died. The 1998 East Meadow High School graduate served in the military from 2003 to 2007. He came back decorated, but his family says eight months of combat took a severe toll on his mental health. Ryan was arrested for various drug charges and car crashes. He was unable to keep a steady job and his marriage ended. When he was jailed at Armor in 2012, he had been charged with driving under the influence of drugs.
Sadly, Ryan hanged himself on Feb. 24, 2012 with a bed sheet. Hours beforehand, a psychiatrist had conducted an assessment. When the Commission of Correction investigated his death, they found the psychiatrist's assessment to be inadequate. In 2013, Armor sent a letter saying it disagreed with that finding.
During testimony, jurors were shown evidence that Ryan was deemed a suicide risk. When a correction official conducted a suicide screening intake, Ryan was given a failing grade. He was placed on "constant observation status". The official referred Ryan for a mental health exam because the veteran denied having suicidal thoughts. He informed the official that he had been taking psychiatric medications.
The lawsuit alleges that a psychiatrist did not see the veteran until 17 hours later, even though nurses saw him. Furthermore, the former marine was never given medication for drug withdrawal or mental health issues, the lawsuit alleges.
Attorneys for Armor argue that Ryan failed to show signs of suicide or drug withdrawal; they claim that no forms document a risk of suicide before his death. However, Warywoda presented the jury with evidence showing that an unidentified jail official tried to change Ryan's file to indicate a previous suicide attempt before his death, not afterwards.
The lawsuit alleges that the defendants failed to transport Ryan in a reasonable time frame to get medical treatment. The defendants also allegedly failed to administer life-saving treatment upon discovering his death. Because of these actions, the suit alleges, the defendants deprived Ryan of his basic civil rights, privileges, and immunities under a variety of constitutions, including the State of New York and the United States of America. The lawsuit alleges that Armor failed to administer basic care to Ryan, which ultimately led to his death.
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