A lawsuit is expected to be filed this week in federal court alleging negligence by hospital staff, corrections officers and police led to a 2014 death in the Franklin County jail.
The wrongful death lawsuit seeks more than $30 million in damages from Lourdes Medical Center, the Pasco Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and the city of Pasco for the death of Mitchell Campbell, 26, of Richland.
Police Chief Bob Metzger and former Sheriff Richard Lathim are named in the lawsuit, along with individual members of their respective departments.
The lawsuit alleges staff at Lourdes provided inadequate medical care to Mitchell Campbell, and corrections officers used unnecessary force when the mentally ill man was arrested after being wheeled to a park shortly after his release from the hospital in July 2014.
Campbell, who was schizophrenic, died two days after being arrested. He was found alone, with a head wound inside his cell. The coroner’s office determined he died from a seizure caused by drug or alcohol abuse.
The Campbell family says they were never contacted by police or hospital staff about Mitchell’s condition.
“Throughout Mitchell’s approximate 48-hour ordeal between July 10, 2014, and July 12, 2014, (he) suffered egregious violations of his constitutional rights by the defendants,” attorney George P. Trejo Jr. wrote in the lawsuit. “This lawsuit seeks to bring redress for Mitchell’s wrongful death.”
The agencies named declined to talk about the case. Officials told the Herald that they do not discuss pending litigation.
Campbell was admitted to Lourdes on July 9 after police found him under a Pasco overpass acting odd, calling out for Jesus, the lawsuit said. At the hospital, he was given anti-psychotic medication and a care plan was developed, which included an eventual release to detox.
However, Campbell acted out at the hospital, yelling for Jesus, and was verbally abusive to nurses, the lawsuit said. Police were called after he urinated on the floor and bed.
Despite having seizures at the hospital, Campbell was released shortly before midnight, about seven hours after checking in, and wheeled by a Pasco police officer to nearby Sylvester Park, the lawsuit and police reports said. Campbell, who was apparently still in crisis, was left at the park in a hospital gown.
“Mitchell was discharged despite having been admitted for polysubstance abuse, including methamphetamine, and suffering two seizures,” Trejo wrote. “He should not have been discharged.”
About five hours later, police were called to the park and found Campbell confused and naked, the lawsuit said. He was arrested and booked into the Franklin County jail on suspicion of lewd conduct.
At no time during (Mitchell Campbell’s) incarceration at the Franklin County Jail, prior to his untimely death, was any medical or psychiatric services provided to him. He was not medically evaluated nor did he receive any medical attention.
Attorney George P. Trejo Jr.
The Campbell family says they were never contacted by police or hospital staff about Mitchell’s condition. The lawsuit claims Campbell was never given any medication while in custody and jail staff knew about his previous seizures.
Once at the jail, Campbell was placed in a restraint chair for up to 10 hours, where he wasn’t monitored regularly by medical staff and was denied bathroom breaks, the lawsuit said. He could be heard screaming.
“It was obvious to everyone in D block that Mitchell was suffering,” the lawsuit said. “Several inmates attempted to contact the correction officers on behalf of Mitchell to have him released from the chair.”
A corrections officer spotted Campbell on July 12 at about noon on the floor of his cell, breathing hard, the lawsuit said. Jail staff allegedly ignored Campbell and continued to pass out lunches.
The cell was eventually opened, and Campbell was found bloodied. Paramedics were called, and he was pronounced dead a short time later.
During his time in custody, Campbell asked to be taken to the hospital and given medication, the lawsuit said. He repeatedly cried out for help and was ignored.
“At no time during Mitchell’s incarceration at the Franklin County jail, prior to his untimely death, was any medical or psychiatric services provided to him,” Trejo wrote. “He was not medically evaluated nor did he receive any medical attention.”
Franklin County and Columbia Legal Services, a legal aid organization in Seattle, recently agreed to settle a lawsuit to improve conditions at the jail, including offering improved mental health services.