The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has reversed a decision by the U.S. District Court of New Mexico and ruled that the Estate of Ricardo J. Ortiz successfully stated a claim against both Santa Fe County and a corrections officer employed by the Santa Fe County Jail (ADF) who ignored Mr. Ortiz' fatal withdrawal symptoms while he was an inmate in the facility's care. The Estate's Complaint, filed by Rothstein Donatelli, set forth how Mr. Ortiz informed Corrections Officer Dylan Chavez that he was vomiting blood as the result of his suffering from severe heroin withdrawal, how other inmates confirmed Mr. Ortiz' report, and how Officer Chavez personally observed Mr. Ortiz vomiting blood in his cell, yet did nothing to obtain medical care for him – with the result that Mr. Ortiz died an agonizing and wholly unnecessary death due to gastrointestinal hemorrhage caused by his withdrawal less than three days later. The Complaint further detailed Santa Fe County's longstanding custom of failing to meet the medical needs of ADF inmates suffering from withdrawal by failing to provide these inmates with adequate medical intakes, failing to classify them into the jail's medical unit, and failing to provide them with even minimal medical care while incarcerated. The Tenth Circuit's decision – a major victory for civil rights plaintiffs in jail death cases – will allow Mr. Ortiz' family to continue their fight for justice in the federal courts.
Rothstein Donatelli attorney Alicia C. Lopez argued Mr. Ortiz' case in the Tenth Circuit. She was joined on the briefs by Cammie M. Nichols, partner in our civil rights practice.