A Sacramento County jail inmate died a year ago because a sheriff's deputy and a nurse refused to give him help for constant vomiting of blood over at least 12 hours, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in federal court.
The 17-page complaint alleging civil rights violations was filed on behalf of the inmate's mother and three sisters. It was filed electronically Saturday by attorney Stewart Katz.
The death of Mark Anthony Scott was the direct result of a failure to summon emergency medical care which, in turn, stemmed from "defective policies and practices" at the Sacramento County Main Jail and Correctional Health Services, the complaint alleges.
"Scott's death was a consequence of inadequate Sheriff's Department policies, practices and training regarding the recognition and response to an inmate's obvious medical needs.
"Scott was sick and vomiting blood throughout (Jan. 6, 2012)," the complaint claims.
"His pleas and the pleas of other inmates on his behalf to seek emergency medical care were met with silence, derision and indifference. Eventually, the unchecked vomiting led to a torn esophagus, internal bleeding and his death."
The suit says the coroner attributed Scott's death to Mallory-Weiss syndrome a condition in which excessive vomiting damages the body.
"It is rare that Mallory-Weiss syndrome results in death, largely because of the fact that the condition is so easily treated," the suit says.
The complaint points out that inmates "have no ability to obtain medical care without the assistance of jail personnel."
Sheriff Scott Jones said Sunday, "We investigated this thoroughly, as we do all jail deaths. I believe the facts are at odds with the family's version of events. That's all I can say now that we have been sued."
Scott, who was 48 when he died, had been arrested Dec. 1, 2011, on outstanding warrants related to multiple charges.
He was living in Napa at the time, and had a long record of arrests and convictions in Sacramento County, including a weapons violation, theft, drunken driving and welfare fraud.
Scott and other inmates made repeated pleas to the correctional staff for help, the suit alleges. "These pleas did not bring any medical aid," it says. "However, they did result in admonishments from the correctional staff for Scott to quit bugging them."
The suit says Scott's cellmate reported telling Deputy James Tidwell that Scott was messed up, that he had "blood on his neck" and was "bleeding out of his mouth."
The suit says Tidwell responded that there wasn't anything he could do and that Scott needed to "speak for himself."
The suit says Tidwell threatened inmates with repercussions if they kept buzzing him and "bugging him about Scott's condition that they would all be locked down."
But Scott did speak to Tidwell on his own behalf to no avail, "despite Scott's showing Tidwell a plastic, blood-filled bag," the suit says. "Deputy Tidwell claims to have spoken with (jail) nurse Caryl Skerritt, who, according to Tidwell, said Scott should drink 'plenty of water' and sign up for nurse's sick call if his problems persisted."
That was on Friday, and the next sick call was Monday.
Attempts to reach Tidwell on Sunday were unsuccessful.
At 9:50 p.m. that day, Scott's cellmate reported to a deputy that Scott was unresponsive. Correctional officers, jail medical personnel, firefighters and medics responded.
He was pronounced dead in the jail by a medic at 10:22 p.m.
As part of the Sheriff's Department's investigation of the death, "many inmates reported both the obvious nature of Scott's prolonged, physical distress and the callousness with which the correctional staff ignored multiple pleas to help Scott," the suit alleges.
Department brass, "despite having read and/or signed off on the investigative report found the actions, or more accurately, inactions of the deputies and correctional health staff appropriate. in complete disregard to the witness statements in their possession. They did not perform any follow-up investigation or initiate any disciplinary action against any involved person."
The suit seeks monetary damages in an unspecified amount on claims of deliberate indifference, unconstitutional practices and policies, lax supervision and training, and wrongful death.
In addition to Sacramento County, Jones and Tidwell, it names eight other sheriff's officers as defendants.
In addition to Skerritt, it names three other members of the jail medical staff.