Is there a legal case here?
March 23, 2015 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend in the Seattle, WA area who's trying to determine if she should consider filing a lawsuit against a jail/prison and, if so, where to start. Details below.

The basics of the story are that while her husband was serving a 108 day jail sentence, he developed a sinus infection. He complained to the nurse during a phone assessment on 3/6/15, but was told to let it pass on it's own. He made a few more attempts to be assessed, asking the guards to let him speak with the nurse again, but was repeatedly told that the nurse already told him to let it pass on it's own.

Now, as a result of complications from the sinus infection, he is undergoing brain surgery because of infection around his brain and an abscess in his brain. He's already been through surgery to remove that abscess, and one behind his eye that the doctors advised would probably cause him to lose vision in that eye.

So, 1. Does this sound like a case that she should consult with a lawyer over, and pursue a case to sue?

And 2. Can anyone in the Seattle area recommend a law office to start with?
posted by persephone's rant to Law & Government (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Only a lawyer (YOUR lawyer) can tell you whether it makes sense to sue. I say lawyer up, and quickly.
posted by mynameisluka at 3:47 PM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You should absolutely consult a lawyer.

I don't have a personal recommendation, but I would suggest Googling for ["department of corrections" seattle lawsuit] or ["washington state department of corrections" lawsuit]. Find out the names of attorneys that have brought cases against the Department of Corrections. Ideally successful cases. Non-profit prisoners' rights groups may have suggestions also.

For example, I found Duncan Turner, who represented clients against the DOC and claims "traumatic brain injury" as a specialty.
posted by grouse at 3:57 PM on March 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

From an anonymous commenter:
I have two relatives who work in prison lawsuit litigation. One specializes in assisting former or current inmates inmates who are filing a claim, the other works in Oregon defending the state department of corrections against suits. I have heard many stories... many inmates who had legitimate cases, and others who were trying to drum up money in anticipation of their release.

From the stories they have told me, your friend has a very good shot at filing a claim. Your story mirrors successful claims, in other words. Success depends on the type of advice given by the nurse and the information the nurse had, as well as the facility's policies. Expect to have to hire (or have your attorney hire) medical experts to research and corroborate a claim.

Please be aware of two things. First, the laws applying to this kind of claim are VERY specialized, particularly federal law, if they are hoping to file a claim in federal court. Don't go to a typical accident/injury/tort lawyer and expect them to know what they are talking about. I have heard too many tales from my relatives of inexperienced accident/injury attorneys jumping into court because they assume this is like any other accident/injury tort. Clients choose them because they agree to work on congtingency. The attorneys then end up wasting time and money by filing the wrong stuff, citing the wrong statutes, etc. The courts get upset, and these cases (as in many cases) are very much about working with the court to ensure that a judge sees a client's perspective.

Second, in that same vein, they should hire an attorney who is knowledgable enough to help them learn more about your state's prisoner/inmate tort laws and damage laws. If suing the state or a local jail, your state's laws may provide the local or state prison with protection against judgments. Often, in many states, if an inmate wins a judgment, the state or locality can recoup some or all of the claim to pay for cost of imprisonment.

By all means though, please have your friends consult an attorney! Best wishes.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:42 PM on March 23, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: The case that sprung to mind locally is that of Michael Saffioti, who died of allergic reactions in the Snohomish County jail after turning himself in to serve a marijuana sentence.

The attorney handling his suit against the County and the staffers is Cheryl Snow, of the JS Rodgers firm in Seattle.
posted by Kakkerlak at 7:55 PM on March 23, 2015

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