$3M awarded after addict dies in California jail

AP News
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Posted: Nov 11, 2014 12:30 PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County must pay $3 million to the family of a heroin addict who died of an asthma attack while detoxing in jail, a federal jury determined.

The California county and two nurses violated Daniel Sisson's civil rights, jurors found Monday. They specifically faulted the county's method of checking jail cells and how it trains staff to deal with inmates who are detoxing from drug addiction, U-T San Diego reported (http://bit.ly/1sxY6Co ).

Sisson's parents had sued the Sheriff's Department and the California county in U.S. District Court on various claims, including wrongful death and cruel and unusual punishment.

The 21-year-old was on probation when he was arrested for heroin possession and ordered back to the Vista jail on June 23, 2011, according to court records. He was found dead in his bunk two days later.

A forensic pathology expert testified during trial that Sisson died of an asthma attack caused by the symptoms of heroin withdrawal.

The county's lawyer, Kevin Kennedy, told jurors that Sisson lied about using drugs when he was booked into jail and refused medical treatment at one point.

The family's attorney, Christopher Morris, said they hope the verdict will encourage authorities to have "a serious conversation" about updating its policies and procedures for training jail staff and deputies.

"More than anything, the family wants this case to be a catalyst for change," especially with respect to detoxing inmates, he said.

The county's counsel said in a statement to the newspaper that it was disappointed in the verdict and would be "evaluating possible next steps with our clients."

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com