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Judge says inmate wrongful death suit may go forward

Discovery is the means by which facts and evidence are provided to participants in a legal action. Parties can request specific answers to relevant questions about the matter, and the presiding judge can direct limitations that should apply. A step in the process of a wrongful death lawsuit presently pending in another state involves the denying of defendants' attempt to dismiss the case. The subject cause of action is one that could be found in Wisconsin, or anywhere there are jails and prisons.

The plaintiff is the mother of a prison inmate who died in his cell in 2012. The autopsy performed on the 44-year-old indicated death was caused by hyperthermia. This condition is caused when a body produces more heat than it releases. Multiple defendants are named in the complaint, including that state's criminal justice department and related officials.

According to the suit, pre-existing medical conditions suffered by the prisoner made him susceptible to heat stroke. They included hypertension, depression, schizophrenia and diabetes. In addition to the wrongful death cause of action, American with Disabilities Act and civil rights violations are included in plaintiff's punitive damages request.

Considering the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, equated in this case to the indifference of authorities to a medical need of a person in their charge, defendants' motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied. They claimed that as executive personnel, they were not involved in medical or housing decisions for the victim. The judge found extreme temperature claims are accepted under the Eighth Amendment, and therefore, limited discovery would be allowed to determine the extent of their personal knowledge of plaintiff's claims.

People, including prisoners and their families, are entitled to seek compensation when an injury or death occurs because of the negligence of another. Whether it is a fatal accident, medical malpractice or workplace occurrence, accountability and financial penalties assessed to those responsible can help a family recover financially from the loss of a loved one. A knowledgeable, experienced approach to the complexities of legal proceedings is helpful when seeking a positive outcome.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Judge Won’t Dismiss Inmate Death Lawsuit" Cameron Langford, Apr. 01, 2014

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