Survivors of a woman who died of an asthma attack while incarcerated on Rikers Island have another shot at pursing their negligence claim against the city and certain correctional employees.
The Appellate Division, First Department, breathed new life into the case, Luckey v. City of New York, et al., 12 years after it was initially filed. The appellate division ruled the Bronx state Supreme Court incorrectly dismissed the wrongful death action.
Our Manhattan wrongful death lawyers know that while prisoners may not be the most sympathetic of victims, corrections agencies do have a basic duty to ensure they are safe and their medical needs attended. Here, it is alleged that duty was breached, and that breach was a proximate cause of the inmate’s death.
Despite the earlier ruling, the five-judge appellate court unanimously found there were several triable issues of fact that precluded a summary judgment in this case.
Specifically, there is extensive conflicting witness testimony regarding whether the correctional officers responded appropriately when the woman complained of difficulty breathing, and began exhibiting signs of an asthma attack.
According to the case file, the 46-year-old mother of six, a nurse’s aide, was jailed in the spring of 2002 on a charge of petty theft. She was unable to post bail, and was held at Rikers pending another court date.
She was there just two weeks when she began to complain of difficulty breathing. This is where stories vary. Dozens of witnesses reportedly gave conflicting accounts of how fast officers responded to calls for medical attention. The rules of the Department of Corrections require that officers respond immediately to medical emergencies, and further that officers who are trained and certified in CPR must administer it when appropriate.
However, numerous inmates say they were forced to intervene and attempt to provide medical care for the inmate when officers refused to do anything, prior to the arrival of medical personnel. The city and other defendants deny this account, and maintain appropriate protocol was followed by officers.
The Bronx Supreme Court Justice who dismissed the negligence and civil rights claims agreed with the city that officers had followed protocol. However, the appellate division cited conflicting witness statements as evidence that these were matters of fact that should go before a jury.
Also, the appellate panel rejected the city’s argument that it should be immune, because the allegation revolves around purported negligent failure to comply with mandatory rules and regulations handed down by the city’s corrections department. Similarly, the court found employees named as defendants had not, as a matter of law, established their own immunity, as it is alleged they acted with deliberate indifference and not in compliance of protocol for such instances.
The Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC offers free consultations. Call 1-877-313-7673.
Luckey v. City of New York, et al., Aug. 7, 2014, New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department
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