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North Carolina pays record-setting wrongful death settlement

North Carolina's Guilford County recently paid $475,000 to family of a county jail inmate who died after detention officers kept him in a restraining chair for an excessive amount of time. The sum is likely the highest the county has paid in the settlement of a legal liability case, though officials say a trial would probably have been even more costly. The company responsible for medical care in the jail is reportedly providing even more money to the family, who filed a wrongful death lawsuit following the fatal 2010 incident.

According to a report from the jail, officers were forced to restrain the inmate several times during the week leading up to his death after he engaged in "threatening and assaultive behavior." After the man was released from the chair on one occasion, he reportedly became incoherent and began urinating on the floor. The man then collapsed and stopped responding to officers, who performed CPR but were unable to revive him. Emergency response personnel arrived at the jail and transported the victim to a hospital. Medical staff were able to briefly restart the man's pulse, but he was declared dead shortly after being admitted.

A medical examiner who performed on autopsy on the man's body ruled that he died due from "acute pulmonary thromboemboli," saying the man's mental illness-induced habit of banging his head against his cell's wall may have contributed to the problem.

Although officials disagree on claims that the man was kept in the restraining chair for an excessively long period of time, most agreed that the detention officers at the jail failed to follow the proper procedures regarding the documentation and use of the chair; officers are required to record when an inmate is placed into the chair and when he or she is released, but officials say they are unclear on how long the man was restrained. Additionally, the officers may have failed to follow jail regulations requiring them to periodically release inmates from restraining chairs to allow them to walk around.

Source: Rhino Times, "County Pays $500K for Jail Death," Scott D. Yost, Jan. 24, 2013

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