After over four years of litigation and finishing the first week of a 10 week trial, Alameda County and Corizon Health, Inc., a national for-profit jail health care corporation, have ended a wrongful death civil rights case by agreeing to pay $8.3 million dollars to the four adult children of Martin Harrison.
Mr. Harrison was Tased and beaten to death while he was in life-threatening Delirium Tremens caused by Corizon’s failure to provide medical care to him at the Santa Rita Jail in August 2010. Corizon and the County also agreed to sweeping reforms (injunctive relief), to be overseen by the Judge Jon S. Tigar of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, to correct fundamental failures that led to Mr. Harrisons unnecessary death. Corizon agreed to implement major changes in how it staffs jails throughout the entire state as a part of this settlement.
The lawsuit revealed that Corizon allows uncredentialled Licensed Vocational Nurses to do the intake medical assessments only Registered Nurses are allowed to do under California law. When Mr. Harrison was arrested and taken to jail, he told the Corizon LVN that he drinks every day, his last drink was that day, and he has a history of alcohol withdrawal. The LVN decided not to provide Mr. Harrison with life-saving alcohol withdrawal protocols, and she sent him to the general jail population with no medical follow-up. Three days later, Mr. Harrison went into severe alcohol withdrawal — Delirium Tremens was having hallucinations, and was Tased and beaten to death by deputies.
One of the family’s attorneys, Michael Haddad, said, After jail deputies beat and Tased their father to death, Martin Harrisons children beat them in court to win the largest wrongful death settlement in a civil rights case in California history. Haddad also said, It was very important for us to stop Corizon from endangering jail inmates by staffing California jails with unqualified nurses. Haddad’s partner, Julia Sherwin, said, This settlement is going to change the business of correctional medicine around the country. If California inmates are entitled to have Registered Nurses — and not unqualified LVNs — do the work of RNs then so are inmates in Arizona, Florida, Alabama, New York, Michigan, and every other state where Corizon has contracts. Sherwin also said, Corizon failed Martin Harrison. His legacy is to make sure Corizon does not fail other people who suffer from serious health conditions like alcohol dependence. Martins family was committed to making sure his death was not in vain, and they succeeded completely.
After four years of litigation, Haddad & Sherwin were joined at trial by co-counsel, Rick Friedman, of Friedman – Rubin, from Bremerton, Washington.