Crime - Sacto 911

Man who suffered eye injury in jail says the county delayed surgery to save money – as his vision faded

Ramin Shekarlab says he lost vision in his right eye after authorities at the Sacramento County Jail delayed providing surgery.
Ramin Shekarlab says he lost vision in his right eye after authorities at the Sacramento County Jail delayed providing surgery. Stewart Katz law office

Ramin Shekarlab hasn’t had the best of luck.

An Iranian-born man who started a new life in Sacramento as a car salesman and insurance agent, Shekarlab was shot four times –once in the head at point-blank range – in an unsolved incident at a Fulton Avenue used car lot in 2004, according to court records.

The shooting left him with health issues that included periodic seizures. After he ended up in the Sacramento County jail in April 2016 on a felony reckless driving charge, he had trouble getting authorities to dispense prescribed medicines designed to prevent seizures, according to a new lawsuit.

Within a month in custody, Shekarlab had passed out and fallen, injuring his right eye and leading to him seeking an appointment with an ophthalmologist, something that did not happen for another eight months, according to the suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by Sacramento attorney Stewart Katz.

“Although it was evident he had a serious medical need, plaintiff’s numerous requests for medical attention went largely ignored and he was not seen by an ophthalmologist until January of 2017,” the lawsuit says, when the doctor recommended that he be seen for a surgical consult within one to three weeks.

Instead, Shekarlab went without surgery until after his release from jail last May, more than a year after his injury. He and now suffers from vision loss in his eye that cannot be surgically repaired because of the delay in treatment, according to the lawsuit.

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department routinely declines to discuss pending litigation, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

But the lawsuit alleges that medical staff at the jail have a “de facto policy of deferring medically necessary procedures when they believe that the patient is going to be released” in a bid to save the county the cost of treatment.

The lawsuit says Shekarlab was seen repeatedly by doctors and nurses at the jail who were told by the inmate that his eye injury was getting worse, but that little effort was made to get him surgery. He also was taken to a second ophthalmologist in February 2017 who recommended Shekarlab be taken to a specialist within one to three weeks, but who described the problem as “non-urgent,” the suit says.

“It is well-known to any physician, regardless of specialty, that for surgical treatment of detached retinas there is a direct correlation between prompt surgery and likelihood of success,” the lawsuit says. “In this case, the surgery that was needed is a very common and inexpensive surgical procedure frequently performed on an outpatient basis.”

By the time Shekarlab was released from custody and was able to be seen by a specialist on June 22, 2017, “the surgery came too late,” the suit says.

Now, he suffers from vision loss and pain, and has “suffered mental anguish and distress from the emotional toll of knowing that he was in need of a simple surgery to save his eyesight,” the suit says.

Sam Stanton: 916-321-1091, @StantonSam