County, city face lawsuit
Aug. 6, 2013 — Lassen County, the city of Susanville and officers from the Lassen County Sheriff’s Office and the Susanville Police Department are named as defendants in a $15 million wrongful death lawsuit filed in the United States District Court, Eastern District of California.
Other defendants include former Lassen County Sheriff Steve Warren, unnamed correctional officers, Susanville Police Officer Ed Vega and other unnamed police officers.
The suit alleges the actions and inactions of local police officers and officers at the Lassen County Adult Detention Facility led to Michael Parker’s death at Renown Medical Center in Reno Nov. 5, 2009.
The plaintiff is Nancy Schwartz, Parker’s mother, and the administrator of his estate.
The plaintiff demands a jury trial, $15 million in compensatory damages, nominal damages, court costs, attorney fees and other relief as the court deems just and proper.
The suit’s claims for relief include cruel and unusual punishment and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs; deprivation of basic necessities of life; deprivation of life without due process; failure to provide medical care for a serious medical condition; failure to summon medical care for an inmate; failure to discharge mandatory duty; reckless or malicious neglect of a dependent adult; deprivation of familial relationships and violation of due process and right of association; and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
According to court documents, Schwartz alleges two months before her son died he had lost 40 pounds while in custody for only two weeks, and “it was clear to even a layperson that his health was deteriorating and that he needed emergency medical treatment if his life was to be saved.”
The plaintiffs allege when Schwartz asked her son why he had not seen a doctor while in custody, the staff had told him to “quit complaining and make the best of it.”
She alleges her son “was denied medical treatment until it was too late to save his life,” according to the court documents.
Parker, who suffered from “a congenital heart defect and aggravation of colon abscess,” was admitted to Renown Medical Center Oct. 22, 2009 “because his suffering had become so intense, and his health was failing so quickly.”
The sheriff’s office allegedly did not inform Schwartz her son had been transported to Renown “until Mineau informed her after three weeks of not allowing her to see or know where her son was, that her son was in critical condition and had been released from the facility and was at Renown Hospital,” the court documents allege.
According to the court documents, the detention facility “had a pattern and practice of ignoring inmates’ calls for medical help prior to the time that Michael Parker was condemned to death by the detention facility staff.”
Parker “died a miserable and suffering death knowing that Lassen County and the city of Susanville had intentionally or with reckless disregard caused him to die over an arrest that was vindictive, unsupported by probable cause, ill-advised and part of a repeated series of wrongful arrests and incarcerations … ” and “Lassen County intentionally and with reckless disregard for Michael Parker’s right to live, took his life,” the court documents allege.
City and county respond
On May 13, 2013, the city of Susanville responded to a motion for summary judgment that the plaintiffs advanced multiple theories of constitutional violations by Vega, but those theories lack a factual basis.
The city also argued Parker did not have a medical condition that warranted medical attention at the time of his arrest, and no one asked Dr. Hal Meadows, Parker’s physician, to request a medical release from custody.
According to a Meadows’ deposition, mentioned in the court documents, Parker had no symptoms when Meadows examined him Oct. 4, 2009.
The city asked the court to dismiss the case against it because the plaintiff’s claims are “a collection of isolated facts which have no bearing on whether or not the Susanville Police Department had policies, practices or procedures which were the driving force behind an alleged constitutional violation committed by Officer Vega.”
The county responded to some of the allegations April 17, 2013 and sought to strike facts unsupported by evidence.
The county also disputes many of the plaintiff’s allegations and facts, and a response to the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion is expected by Aug. 22.
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