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In an en banc decision dated June 9, 2021, the California Supreme Court rejected the County of San Diego’s petition for review of an appellate decision upholding a November 5, 2019, judgment in the amount of $6,417,990.56 in Collins v. County of San Diego, et al. While on appeal, the County has incurred over $650,000 in interest alone on the judgment.

“It’s been a very long wait for Mr. Collins. The Supreme Court’s rejection of the County’s petition affirms that the jury got it right,” said Attorney Robert Vaage, trial counsel for Mr. Collins.

David Collins, 30 years old of Encinitas, CA, was taken away and arrested by sheriff’s deputies before he was evaluated by paramedics for hallucinations, slurred speech, and stumbling. Despite his condition, which was caused by severely low blood sodium, he was arrested for public intoxication and jailed, where he subsequently fell and struck his head while at the Vista Detention Center. Medical care was not summoned for over 12 hours. Mr. Collins had both a brain bleed from the fall and metabolic injury to his brain.

In November of 2019, a jury awarded David Collins $12.6 million. The trial judge reduced the verdict due to the caps on medical negligence claims against the jail nurses and offsets for previous settlement with other defendants. The County appealed, arguing in part that the deputies had probable cause to arrest Mr. Collins and that the intake jail nurse had immunity under California law. The three-justice panel rejected the County’s arguments and unanimously affirmed the judgment.

The Appellate Court held in a published opinion that the jury’s finding of negligence against the sheriff’s deputies was not foreclosed by the jury’s rejection of the false arrest claim and that public employees may be found liable for an injury to a prisoner. The appellate opinion further affirmed how offsets are calculated when there are healthcare providers and non-healthcare providers who share in the liability. 

Takeaways from David Collins v. County of San Diego, Et Al.

The Collins case highlights several important points: 

  • Deputies owe a duty to obtain medical care for an individual regardless of whether there’s probable cause to arrest.
  • The County could have saved over half a million dollars in interest if it had just paid the judgment.
  • MICRA caps on non-economic damages do not apply to pretrial settlements and therefore should not be considered before the offset for prior settlements. 

We at Vaage Law are hopeful that this decision will prompt the County to implement changes to its policies related to how sheriff’s deputies and jail personnel, including medical personnel, assess and treat members of the public.

If you or a loved one have suffered injury due to another’s negligence, contact us at (619) 338-0505 to set up a free case review. We are known for representing victims in highly complex injury cases, and we go to great lengths to obtain the best outcome for our clients.




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