Deceased prisoner's family said jail withheld his medication
|42 USC 1983, Civil Rights - Prisoners' Rights, Wrongful Death - Survival Damages|
|Monica Garcia, individually, as personal representative of the estate of Mario Garcia, and as next friend of Paul Garcia; Jose Garcia; and Bella Garcia v. LCS Correctional Services Inc. and Michael Pendleton, M.D., No. 2:11-cv-00004|
|United States District Court, Southern District, Corpus Christi, TX|
- Benny M. Cason; Webb, Cason & Covich, P.C.; Corpus Christi, TX, for Jose Garcia (intervenor), Bella Garcia (intervenor)
- Craig Henderson; The Snapka Law Firm; Corpus Christi, TX, for Monica Garcia, estate of Mario Garcia, Paul Garcia
- Kathryn A. Snapka; The Snapka Law Firm; Corpus Christi, TX, for estate of Mario Garcia, Monica Garcia, Paul Garcia
- Cynthia Hobrock R.N.; Nursing; Beardstown, IL called by: Kathryn Snapka, Craig Henderson
- Ernesto Guido M.D.; Neurology; Corpus Christi, TX called by: Kathryn Snapka, Craig Henderson
- Ken McCoin Ph.D.; Economics; Houston, TX called by: Kathryn Snapka, Craig Henderson
- Harminder Narula M.D.; Forensic Pathology; Houston, TX called by: Kathryn Snapka, Craig Henderson
- Abel Herrero; Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams; Corpus Christi, TX, for LCS Correctional Services Inc.
- Brian C. Miller; Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams; Corpus Christi, TX, for LCS Correctional Services Inc.
- Myra K. Morris; Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams; Corpus Christi, TX, for LCS Correctional Services Inc.
- Margo Frasier; Jail Standards & Safety; Austin, TX called by: Myra Morris, Abel Herrero, Brian Miller
- Michael Arambula M.D., R.Ph.; Psychiatry; San Antonio, TX called by: Myra Morris, Abel Herrero, Brian Miller
- Chartis for LCS
On the morning of Jan. 12, 2009, plaintiffs' decedent Mario Garcia, 42, experienced a seizure and died in the medical unit of Brooks County Detention Center, a correctional facility in Falfurrias owned and operated by LCS Corrections Services Inc. Michael Pendleton was a doctor who worked at the facility as an independent contractor. He saw Garcia twice in the facility, and the last time was on Jan. 8. The autopsy report said Garcia died of a seizure.
Garcia had been booked into the facility on Dec. 31, 2008. The next day, his wife brought him a supply of clonazepam, an anti-anxiety medication that he had been taking for years. The nurses kept the medication for him, but did not let him take it. Later that day, Garcia started shaking badly. He was taken to the emergency room and treated and released back to the facility. According to the plaintiffs, Garcia's condition deteriorated, especially after Jan. 8. In the early morning hours of Jan. 10, shaking badly, he was transferred to the facility's medical unit, where he died on the Jan. 12.
Garcia's family and estate sued the facility for violations of 42 USC section 1983, alleging failure to provide reasonable medical care. The plaintiffs asserted ordinary and gross negligence. They also sued Pendleton, for medical malpractice, but he was dismissed in early 2012.
The plaintiffs claimed that Garcia's deteriorating condition and death were caused by withdrawal from clonazepam and that the facility should have given Garcia the medication or notified Pendleton of Garcia's clonozepam withdrawal symptoms so that he could prescribe the medication for him. Garcia's shaking became so severe, the plaintiffs claimed, that the nurses put him on the floor with his bedding and put his mattress against the wall so that he would not injure himself. The plaintiffs argued that he was also incontinent and confused.
The autopsy doctor testified that Garcia died from a seizure.
The plaintiffs' nursing expert, who had never testified in a lawsuit before, opined that, regardless of what caused Garcia's condition to deteriorate, the facility's nurses failed to keep Pendleton apprised of Garcia's condition and transfer him to a hospital. The plaintiffs' neurology expert opined that, had Garcia been transferred to a hospital any time before his death, he would have been stabilized and saved.
Pendleton said he ordered one-on-one observation of Garcia, and the ER instructed the facility that Garcia was to keep taking "all current medications." Plaintiffs' counsel argued that the facility failed to follow either of these instructions.
According to the plaintiffs' counsel, the facility had a policy of not giving controlled substances, even prescribed medication, to inmates.
The defense designated Pendleton as a responsible third party and argued that he was at least 75 percent at fault.
The defense contended that plaintiff's condition did not deteriorate as the plaintiffs alleged, but that his symptoms were consistent with panic attacks, which he had experienced for years.
The defense expert on prison standards, a former sheriff of Travis County, testified that the facility's staff met all its obligations.
The defense psychiatrist testified that clonazepam withdrawal lasts no longer than four or five days and does not cause fatal seizures. The defense denied that clonazepam withdrawal played any role in Garcia's death.
The defense also noted that his prescription was for a 30-day supply and was dated Nov. 28, although he still had some of the medication left.
The defense sought dismissal on the grounds that plaintiffs did not timely serve their threshold expert report pursuant to section 74.351, but the court denied the motion.
Pendleton said Garcia appeared stable the two times he saw him and that he was not advised of Garcia's deteriorating condition thereafter.
The plaintiffs claimed that Garcia's condition deteriorated rapidly after Jan. 8, and that he experienced severe clonazepam withdrawal, with shaking, incontinence, and confusion. He died on Jan 12 and was survived by his parents, who were intervenors in the case; his wife of about 20 years; his son, who was about 10.
Garcia's father died a few months before trial, and Garcia's mother settled for a confidential amount a week or two before trial. Thus, their claims did not go to trial.
The estate sought $500,000 for Garcia's conscious pain and suffering.
His son sought $250,000 for past mental anguish, $250,000 for future mental anguish, $250,000 for past loss of companionship and society and $500,000 for future loss of companionship and society.
The widow sought $68,000 for past pecuniary loss, $568,000 for future pecuniary loss, $150,000 for past mental anguish, $100,000 for future mental anguish, $150,000 for past loss of companionship and society, and $100,000 for future loss of companionship and society. The plaintiffs' economic expert testified about the widow's pecuniary loss.
The plaintiffs also sought punitive damages. According to defense counsel, the plaintiffs sought $1 million in punitives.
The jury found neglect by LCS only, and not Garcia or Pendleton.
The jury found damages of $500,000 for the widow, $1.25 million for the son, and $500,000 for the estate.
The jury did not find gross negligence.
estate of Mario Garcia
$500,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering
$50,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship
$100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship
$50,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Pecuniary Contribution
$100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Pecuniary Contribution
$100,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Angiush
$100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Angiush
$250,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship
$500,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship
$250,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Angiush
$250,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Angiush
The plaintiffs filed a motion for judgment. The defense plans to file a response asserting a cap on noneconomic damages under the Texas Medical Liability Act. The defense also plans to move for judgment as a matter of law and to appeal if necessary.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel, intervenors' counsel, and defense counsel.