The estate of an inmate who died while in Schenectady County Jail custody last year is suing the county and jail medical service provider alleging wrongdoing in the death.
The suit, filed earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Albany, survived an early test recently as the judge in the case rejected a motion from the county defendants seeking to dismiss the case.
The case involves the April 29, 2013, death of Nicole Carmen. She died, according to the suit, at Ellis Hospital from complications of opiate withdrawal.
She was admitted to the jail on April 20, 2013, to serve time on a parole violation, the suit reads.
She told jail medical staff upon entering that she was a heroin addict. She also told them, according to the suit, that she had been using larger quantities of the drug in the days leading up to her incarceration, that she wasn’t feeling well and that she expected a difficult withdrawal.
The suit alleges that the jail and its medical provider, Correctional Medical Care, failed to respond to her escalating medical needs associated with the withdrawal. Four days after she entered the jail, she was taken to Ellis Hospital on a stretcher and in a coma, the suit says. Five days after that, she died.
The lawsuit alleges that staff of the for-profit Correctional Medical Care failed to properly treat Carmen and did so to keep costs down.
“In fact, CMC’s contract with the county of Schenectady and other jails provides a clear incentive to provide as little treatment as possible to detainees because any medical expense directly reduces CMC’s profit margins,” the suit reads.
Despite the allegations in the suit, the state Commission of Correction last year reviewed documentation related Carmen’s death and found no issues that required a full investigation and report, according to a state spokeswoman.
Also, the lawsuit appears to be the first public note of Carmen’s death in custody. There is no record of a public report to local media at the time of her in-custody death, as is customary.
Jail officials did publicly report a more recent death at the jail, that of Lucky Lee Wilkins Jr., in May of this year. Wilkins was determined to have killed himself in his cell by hanging.
Jail officials have said their review showed policies and procedures were followed in Wilkins’ death. The state inquiry into his death is continuing.
Named as defendants in the Carmen case are the county, Correctional Medical Care, Sheriff Dominic Dagostino, Jail Administrator Jim Barrett, as well as employees of the medical care provider and jail.
Schenectady County Attorney Chris Gardner said recently the county will be contesting the suit. A representative of Correctional Medical Care did not return a call for comment.
The suit was filed in the name of Sharon Chase, identified as the administratrix of Carmen’s estate. Representing the plaintiff is attorney E. Robert Keach.