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Wrongful death claim to move forward against Florida sheriff

A woman with bipolar disorder died in jail and her husband has sued the sheriff that incarcerated her for her wrongful death.

In 2009, the man was looking to hospitalize his wife because she had ceased taking her medication and could harm herself. He called the police for assistance in the matter. When they arrived, they tried to help her and take her to a mental institution but the mentally ill woman hit one of the officers. She was then Tazed by the responders and taken into custody.

The husband wanted his sick wife to be committed to a mental institution, which Florida's Baker Act allows for in a situation such as this. Instead, the officers jailed her. More than a week later the wife was found dead in her jail cell.

The man made many claims in court surrounding the incident. He sued the county sheriff as well as the two officers who came to assist in the hospitalization of his wife. He made claims of wrongful death, cruel and unusual punishment, false arrest and false imprisonment. The police officers attempted to get the case dismissed.

According to the husband, his wife was in need of her medical treatment and jail personnel knew that she needed it, but failed to administer it. They also neglected to check on her every 15 minutes as required by policy.

The judge overseeing the suit dismissed the false arrest and imprisonment charges, but upheld the wrongful death charge. The judge determined that the man does have standing to sue for wrongful death because his claim focused on the failure to supervise.

Source: Courthouse News Service online, "Man May Sue After Bipolar Wife Died in Jail," Marimer Matos, 27 June 2011

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