Wrongful death claims for jail suicides in local jails can be brought in New Mexico under a number of legal theories, laws and statutes. In addition, there may be a number of defendants named in these types of lawsuits.
The nature of the claims and the named defendants will be dependent upon a number of considerations.
Possible Defendants in a Jail Suicide Cases
There are a number of possible defendants in a jail suicide case, both governmental and private. It is important to identify and name the proper defendants.
There are a number of possible defendants in these cases. The jail facility, along with the county or municipality that administers the jail will naturally be the initial targets of any wrongful claim. However, there may be numerous players in the management and administration of the jail.
For instance, the county or municipality may contract out the management and administration of the jail to private corrections corporations. This is actually very common which means these companies will be held responsible for negligence in the jail facilities.
Likewise, it is very common for medical services to be contracted out to private medical providers. These are typically different than the corrections company mentioned above. These medical providers are responsible for the medical care of inmates. Jail suicide will typically be brought under the 8th Amendment for failure to provide necessary medical care and treatment.
Keep in mind that even though the private corrections companies and medical providers may be held liable for their own negligence in jail suicide cases, this does not get the county or municipality off the hook. The county or municipality will still be held liable as well.
Failure to Properly Screen Inmates
The risk, warning signs and appropriate screening procedures are well-established leaving no excuse for a failure to screen for suicide risks.
One essential element of jail suicide prevention is the proper screening of inmates for suicide risks. The risks and warning signs along with preventative screening procedures are well established. There is no reason for a jail to fail to implement and maintain these screening procedures.
As such, a common element of these claims will be claims for failures related to policies and procedures at the jail. The claims would involve claims for failure to establish the procedures. The claims would also include claims for failure of hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of correctional officers, staff, contractors, agents, management and so on.
Again, the types of claims and the defendants named will depend upon the circumstances. For instance, the jail may have not policies or procedures and consequently no training, supervision and so on. On the other hand, the jail may have verbal policies that are not properly implement. Finally, there may be written policies that are simply not enforced or otherwise taken seriously.
Each of these situations will give rise to its own set of claims.
Medical Negligence Claims
Medical negligence claims will arise under the 8th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.
Medical negligence claims for jail suicides can be brought under both state and federal law. The basis for the state law claims will be brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act while the federal claims will be brought under §1983 of the Civil Rights Act via the 8th Amendment.
Again, inmates have a right to reasonable and adequate medical care. This would include protection of inmates from suicide while in the care of jail facilities.
These claims would be tied into and related to the screening policies and procedures discussed above. In fact, the medical provider may be at least partly responsible for establishing these procedures. After all, these medical procedures typically handle the gamut of medical care issues including mental health.
As the mental health provider, it would be incumbent upon them to monitor the inmates for suicide risks. This would obviously apply where the medical provider is put on notice of an inmate’s risk for suicide. But the question is more difficult when the medical provider does not have direct knowledge of the inmate’s risks.
On the other hand, a medical provider cannot bury its head in the sand avowing lack of knowledge when it is aware of or should be aware of inadequate screening.
These situations will give rise to a variety of claims against the medical provider. The claims might be for simple medical negligence. The claims might also be claims against the medical providers for many of the same claims set forth above related to policies and procedures. It will be entirely dependent upon the circumstances.
Failure to Maintain Safe Jail Facilities
There is a duty to keep the premises safe of suicide hazards.
Related to the above discussion, the jail and its contractors, staff, and other agents have a duty to keep the jail safe. This means making the jail as suicide proof as possible.
Jail suicide is most common by hanging but there are many other risks as well. Although all possible dangers cannot be eradicated, most dangers can and should.
Again, each situation will be unique depending upon the circumstances at the jail, the individual inmate, the inmate’s risks and warning signs and so on. Suffice it to say that with elevated risks and warning signs, the duties to keep the environment safe will likewise increase.
Do Not Delay in Seeking Legal Guidance
Deadlines on claims against jails can run quickly. Specifically, the first deadline in a wrongful death claim runs in only 6 months from the date of death.
It cannot be said too often that claims against the government have shorter deadlines than claims against private entities. This means claims against local jails will have shorter deadlines. The deadline that comes up quickest is the Tort Claims Notice Deadline.
In cases of wrongful death, the Tort Claims Notice runs in only 6 months on some of the claims. If the case involves an attempted but unsuccessful suicide (i.e. serious personal injuries instead of wrongful death) then the deadline runs in only 90 days.
The deadline on the Civil Rights Claims will too have shorter deadlines. These claims must be brought within 2 years of the date of the incident.
Do not delay in contacting a personal injury attorney experienced in civil rights. Missing a deadline will bar those claims.