$12,617,674 – Negligence, Civil Rights, Medical Negligence
A 32-year-old suffers a brain injury due to negligence by sheriff’s deputies and jail nurses.
A San Diego Superior Court jury awarded $12,617,674 to a 32-year-old Encinitas man who alleged negligence by Sheriff’s Deputies and Vista Detention Center nurses for failing to identify and treat his low sodium and his traumatic brain injury that he suffered while detained.
Plaintiff Mr. C sued the County of San Diego, its Sheriff’s Deputies Matthew Chavez and David Sanchez, along with Vista Detention Center nurses Roela Carolino and Johnathan Symmonds for negligence related to his arrest on November 18, 2016. At the time, he had a condition called hyponatremia caused low sodium, chronic illness, and dehydration. His symptoms included slurred speech, trouble walking, and hallucinations.
Mr. C asked for paramedics who were at the scene. Before the paramedics could perform an assessment, the deputies hauled him off to jail for “drunk in public” under Penal Code section 647(f).
During his detention, Mr. C fell twice, striking his head. In addition to his hyponatremia, he had a traumatic brain injury. He was not transported to the hospital right away. By the time he reached the hospital, his sodium levels were critical, and he had brain bleeding and contusions.
When the hospital physicians tried to raise his sodium for fear of the consequences from the head trauma, he developed a further brain injury called osmotic demyelination syndrome or ODS.
This case really is the “tip of the iceberg” of a larger problem, which is the apparent abuse of Penal Code section 647(f) by the Sheriff’s Department, particularly in North County. The case also highlights the appalling level of care offered in the San Diego County Jail system.
The jury found that the deputies were negligent when they pulled Mr. C away from the paramedics and transported him to the Vista Detention Center. The jury found that the jail nurses committed medical negligence for failing to get Mr. C proper medical care for his hyponatremia and brain injury.
Throughout the trial and to the media, the County portrayed Mr. C as a binge drinker and alcoholic who did this to himself. His blood tests were negative for alcohol and drugs. The jury considered whether Mr. C was partially responsible for his injuries and found that none of his actions were the cause of his brain injuries.
The brain injury to the frontal lobe from striking his head in jail permanently affects Mr. C’s judgment and insight, and the ODS affects his mobility and speech. Both were preventable had Mr. C been transported to the hospital by the sheriff’s deputies or the paramedics either before his arrest or booking, or right after he fell in the jail.
The County of San Diego asked to go to a mediation with retired Judge Herb Hoffman. At that mediation, Judge Hoffman recommended $3 million both to the County and to Mr. C to settle the case. Plaintiff accepted the number, but the County Board of Supervisors refused it and only offered $500,000.
The jury awarded Mr. C $8,000,000 in pain and suffering and $4,617,674 in past and future income loss and medical costs. Mr. C previously settled with the treating physicians and hospital for a confidential amount. The case is currently up on appeal.