Family sues Warren County over man's jail death

Posted at 3:18 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 23:33:09-04

CINCINNATI – The family of a man who died of dehydration at the Warren County Jail has filed a federal lawsuit alleging he wasn’t given proper medical care for a heroin withdrawal.

Jason Pittman was jailed from Sept. 13 until he died Sept. 17. Shortly after being jailed, Pittman started withdrawing from heroin, causing him to experience severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati Wednesday.

Pittman could not eat or drink anything due to the withdrawal symptoms, but the jail’s medical staff didn’t monitor his symptoms and failed to adequately treat him and stop the “easily preventable outcome,” the complaint states. He lost 16 pounds during his three-and-a-half days in the jail.

In an affidavit, Dr. Lawrence Mendel wrote “the standard of care was breached by [the jail], and such breach was a direct and proximate cause of the injuries to [Pittman].”

Pittman was the father of two girls and was engaged to marry “his high school sweetheart,” according to the complaint.

He had been jailed for missing probation and drug screen appointments after he pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge related to unemployment benefits.

“Jason is another victim of heroin, which challenges many families in our area,” family attorney Al Gerhardstein said. “Proper steps to treat withdrawal are well known. Failure to take those steps made his death foreseeable and preventable. His two children deserved better for their dad.

"He shouldn't have died. He just shouldn't have died. When you violate your probation on a non-violent crime, that's not a death sentence, and here in Warren County, they made it a death sentence."

The lawsuit names Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc., jail physician and medical director Dr. Mohammed Arif Baig and other jail medical personnel, Warren County, the county board of commissioners and Sheriff Larry Sims as defendants. The plaintiffs allege that the defendants were responsible for Pittman’s wrongful death, accused the jail’s medical staffers of malpractice and Correctional Healthcare Companies of negligence.

Correctional Healthcare Companies said they would release a statement on the case on Thursday.

Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims told WCPO he could not comment on the case.