After a week of trial, Alameda County and Corizon Health, Inc., a national for-profit jail healthcare corporation, have agreed to pay $8.3 million dollars to four adult children of Martin Harrison. Mr. Harrison was tased and beaten to death while suffering from delirium tremenscaused by Corizon’s failure to provide medical care to him at the Santa Rita Jail in August 2010.
The lawsuit revealed that Corizon allowed licensed vocational nurses (LVN) 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 drank every day, his last drink was that day, and he had a history of alcohol withdrawal. The LVN nevertheless 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. Over the next three days, Mr. Harrison descended into severe alcohol withdrawal — delirium tremens – and was having hallucinations. Guards who came to subdue him tased and then beat him until he was unconscious. He died of his injuries.
In addition to the record compensation, Corizon and the County 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. The injunction seeks to correct institutional failures that led to Mr. Harrison’s unnecessary death. Corizon agreed to implement major changes in how it staffs jails throughout the entire state as a part of this settlement. This was an important part of the settlement for Mr. Harrison’s children. They wanted to make sure a tragedy like theirs does not happen to someone else.
The case was tried by Rick Friedman with co-counsel Michael Haddad and Julia Sherwin of Oakland, CA.