Trial Begins, as Jurors Hear Case Against Armor Correctional Health Services
In Central Islip, jurors have begun hearing the case of military combat veteran Bartholomew Ryan, who committed suicide at Nassau’s jail in 2012. The lawsuit filed on his behalf alleges that the county and jail vendor Armor Correctional Health Services were negligent in caring for him, and failed to get him the proper care despite a screening showing he was a suicide risk. Nicholas Warywoda, an attorney with Parker Waichman LLP, is representing the Ryan family.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that Nassau County and Armor acted negligently with regards to Ryan’s incarceration. The decorated veteran, who was honorably discharged from the Marines, struggled with drug addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder.
The suit was filed on behalf of the Ryan family in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. Jurors heard, among other things, that Armor subjected Ryan to cruel and unusual punishment due to a policy that allows jails to wait up to 24 hours to provide care for patients who get referrals for “urgent” treatment. “If they had just listened to that form that deemed him a suicide risk, we wouldn’t be here today,” said Mr. Warywoda in court.
The lawsuit initially went to trial last year, but ended in a mistrial when an Armor psychiatrist was hospitalized the night before he was slated to testify. This is not the only lawsuit alleging that Armor and Nassau country are liable for the death of an inmate. In fact, Ryan’s case is the first of four cases to go trial.
Nassau Facility Allegedly Failed to Provide Adequate Care, Ignored Signs of Suicide
The defendants deny the allegations, claiming that they provided proper care and that there was “no forewarning” of Ryan’s suicide. Among other things, the county and Armor claim that he received appropriate monitoring, evaluation, housing and supervision.
However, government officials who reviewed the case disagree. In fact, the State Commission of Correction found that Armor’s care was inadequate in five inmate deaths. One of those fatalities was Ryan. In his case, the State Commission of Correction found that the Armor psychiatrist conducted an insufficient mental health assessment hours before Ryan took his own life. Armor has fought the finding.
Ryan graduated from East Meadow High School in 1998. He served in the military from 2003 to 2007. His family says that, after eight months of combat in Iraq, he was a changed person. Ryan was honorably discharged and came back a decorated Marine. Mr. Warywoda explained to jurors that his time in the military took a toll on his mental state. “Mentally, he changed. Due to what he experienced and saw,” he said. Among other things, Ryan brought patients to the hospital. Some had gruesome injuries, including missing limbs.
Ryan, who was 32-year-old when he died, became addicted to opioids after being prescribed painkillers for an old boot camp groin injury. Afterwards, he became addicted to heroin. He was unable to keep a steady job, and his marriage ended. In 2012, he was incarcerated for driving under the influence of drugs. Jurors also heard testimony from retired Correction Officer Michael Archer. He told the jury that, since Ryan said he was taking psychiatric medication, he automatically failed on his suicide screening. His jail tier was then placed on “constant observation” until a mental health professional could see him.
However, Ryan did not see a psychiatrist for 18 hours. Mr. Warywoda told jurors that, when the psychiatrist did evaluate him, he only diagnosed his opiate dependency and not his PTSD and bipolar disorder. Additionally, the doctor did not prescribe any psychiatric drugs. Ryan committed suicide six hours later. The lawsuit filed on behalf of Ryan’s family alleges that Armor and the county failed to adequately care for Ryan and subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment. Additionally, the complaint states that the defendants failed to perform life-saving treatment once finding Ryan.
The lawsuit alleges that Ryan was deprived 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 suit alleges that Armor failed to administer basic care to Ryan, and is ultimately liable for his death.
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