Another lawsuit has been filed against San Luis Obispo County relating to the treatment of County Jail inmates, this time over the heart attack death of a San Luis Obispo man in April 2017 that his family alleges was due to violations of his civil rights.
Kevin McLaughlin, 60, of San Luis Obispo died April 13, 2017, of a heart attack shortly after complaining to jail medical staff of shoulder pain and being returned his cell, where he was found unresponsive almost an hour later.
“The decedent was quoted as saying, ‘I’m clammy — I need to go to the hospital,'" a coroner's report reads. “The decedent also stated that he may have just slept on his arm wrong and felt better when he took deep breaths.”
San Luis Obispo County Counsel Rita Neal said that her office was provided a copy of the complaint late Friday but had not yet been officially served. Neal said the county rejected an administrative claim filed by the McLaughlin family in November.
She said the county intends to defend itself against the lawsuit.
The McLaughlin family's attorney who filed the complaint, James McKiernan, did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Friday afternoon.
San Luis Obispo Superior Court records show that McLaughlin was arrested Jan. 23, 2017, and pleaded no contest April 6, 2017, to a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon. He was scheduled to be sentenced May 11, 2017, to 180 days in jail and probation.
His former attorney told The Tribune that his arrest occurred the day of another brother's death and that McLaughlin “lost control” in an physical altercation involving a chair where his mother was the victim.
According to the complaint filed Friday afternoon, McLaughlin had previously been booked in the County Jail in 2016, at which time jail staff noted that he was a high-risk inmate due to his high blood pressure, advanced heart disease and alcohol abuse. It states McLaughlin was also taking psychotropic medication for anxiety and depression.
The lawsuit states he had previous "numerous contacts with county police agencies, community mental health programs and the jail."
While incarcerated in 2017, McLaughlin's medical problems worsened, the lawsuit states, because the county failed to provide proper medication and denied timely and professional medical treatment, including transportation to a hospital.
McKiernan alleges McLaughlin's treatment was unconstitutional due to "deliberate indifference" to his immediate emergency medical needs in violation to state and federal laws.
McKiernan further alleges that inmates were being treated by unqualified and ill-trained medical and non-medical personnel, and their prescription medications were "ratified and rubber stamped by off-site doctors."
The lawsuit alleges mental torture, abuse of power, negligence, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, negligent training, inadequate staffing, disseminating false information, conspiracy and fraudulent record keeping. It seeks an unspecified amount of damages for loss of familial and economic support, emotional distress and to recoup funeral and therapy expenses.
A court hearing had not yet been scheduled Friday afternoon.
The lawsuit comes less than a month after the widow of a Hanford man who died in the jail in November filed an administrative claim against the county for his death. Russell Hammer died of an embolism on Nov. 27 after being left in a solitary cell for days rather than receiving emergency treatment at the county's psychiatric health facility.
Since 2012, 12 inmates have died in County Jail custody, and the FBI is currently investigating allegations of civil rights abuses at the jail.