Man Can Sue After Bipolar Wife Dies in Jail

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 29, 2011 9:47 AM

A federal judge in Florida ruled in favor of Michael DeGraw this month, allowing him to proceed with a lawsuit filed against a local sheriff, which seeks compensation for an incident during which bipolar wife died in jail.

Suing on behalf of himself and his deceased wife, Jennifer, Michael alleges that prison employees falsified documents and failed to provide adequate medical care as required by the 8th Amendment.

He appears to have a pretty strong case.

According to the judge's ruling, in 2009, Michael DeGraw contacted police after he learned that his wife had stopped taking her medication. He felt that she had become a danger to herself and others.

Officers agreed to transport her to a local hospital where she could be temporarily and involuntarily held and examined as provided for under state law, reports Courthouse News Service.

When she resisted, the officers tasered her and arrested her for battery. She was then taken to jail, where she continued to be unmedicated.

She died on her 8th day behind bars.

Michael DeGraw alleges that her death was caused by a failure to treat, and that employees falsified records to show that they checked on her every 15 minutes as well as tried to give her medication, notes Courthouse News Service.

While the 8th Amendment requires that prisoners be provided adequate and necessary medical treatment, to sue under this requirement, a plaintiff must show that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to a prison's medical needs.

This, in turn, requires evidence that they should have known that the prisoner was at substantial risk and that they disregarded that risk.

Based on the facts above, Michael DeGraw seems to have both of these covered.

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