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Schenectady jail death case settles for $100,000

Schenectady jail death case settles for $100,000

Judge orders public disclosure, against attorneys' wishes
Schenectady jail death case settles for $100,000
The exterior of the Schenectady County Jail.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY — A lawsuit over a suicide at the Schenectady County Jail in 2014 was settled for just over $100,000, according to recently filed legal documents.

Judge Daniel Stewart approved the settlement late last month, finding the amount appropriate, given the details of the case, which involved the death of Lucky Wilkins. 

The judge also ruled that the settlement be made public, going against requests by both the jail medical provider and attorneys for the estate of the man who died.

In all, Correctional Medical Care agreed to pay $101,500 to Wilkins' estate to end the case, while denying the underlying allegations of improper care.

The settlement involved no county money, Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner has said. Correctional Medical Care covers legal costs and payouts in all such lawsuits.

Jail employees discovered Wilkins dead in his cell on May 28, 2014. He had a sheet around his neck, the other end tied to a bar at the top of his cell.

State correction officials closed the matter as a suicide, but Wilkins' estate contended Wilkins showed signs of severe depression during his two months in jail, where he was being held on drug-related charges.

Wilkins' estate alleged he sought assistance for depression from medical staff at the jail and at Ellis Hospital but was never provided any meaningful help. The estate originally included claims against Ellis, but those were later dropped.

The suit alleged Wilkins received no medical treatment, causing his death.

Attorney E. Robert Keach represented Wilkins' estate. He would not comment on Monday. 

Representatives of Correctional Medical Care did not respond to requests for comment.

In his ruling, the judge noted that Wilkins' two children will be the beneficiaries of the settlement. 

Keach noted in the original lawsuit that there have been previous allegations against Correctional Medical Care in Schenectady County and elsewhere — he highlighted a state attorney general's settlement with the company — in outlining what he called a "pattern of difficulties."

Keach also represented the family of Nicole Carmen, who died in Schenectady County custody on April 29, 2013. She died from complications of opiate withdrawal, her suit contended.

Carmen's family later won a $425,000 settlement from Correctional Medical Care. The judge in that case, David N. Hurd, also rejected a request from the attorneys to keep that resolution confidential and sealed.

Stewart, the judge in the Wilkins case, cited the Carman settlement decision in his ruling to make the Wilkins settlement public.

In ordering the Carmen payout to be disclosed publicly, Hurd cited the significance of the allegations and the substantial settlement. He also cited prior allegations against CMC, finding a "strong public interest" in the Carmen settlement.

Correctional Medical Care's contract with the county ran out in December but has been extended, Gardner said. The county is preparing a request for proposals to determine whether Correctional Medical Care or another company gets the next contract, Gardner said.

He said Monday he hopes to have that process concluded by the end of the year.

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