Survivors have the right to pursue civil claims in Montana courts for family members' deaths caused by negligence. Wrongful death statutes differ from one state to the next. Laws where a case is filed are applicable.
A man on his way to Montana to spend time with his son had a history of medical problems. The 65-year-old driver was involved in a police chase that ended with the defendant's arrest. He was placed in jail, where he died of a heart attack in August 2013.
The inmate's widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county where her husband died three months after incarceration. She claims county officials ignored the man's physical and mental health. No one has been able to explain why the man with a clean criminal record acted the way he did in May 2013.
The driver lost his way, wandering 170 miles away from the interstate that would have taken him to Montana. He stopped at a Nebraska gas station but left without paying. The driver fled from police, crashed into another vehicle and was charged with operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest.
The widow's lawsuit claims her husband suffered from high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Family members noticed increasing symptoms of dementia. The jail's medical staff initially noted the defendant suffered from disorientation, possibly due to a stroke or Alzheimer's.
The man's mental state allegedly did not improve. The county jail is accused of blocking efforts to have the inmate's health and competency evaluated -- the man was found dead in his cell before the exam could take place. The widow is seeking general damages, plus $5,000 to cover funeral costs and medical expenses.
Negligence is the disregard of another person's safety, based on a breached duty of care. The behavior can involve intentional or careless actions, including a lack of action to safeguard an individual.
Source: Omaha World-Herald, "Iowan's family suing Douglas County over jail death they say was preventable" Cody Winchester, Nov. 16, 2014