The family of a Queens man who died in the Nassau jail in 2014 has brought a $20 million federal lawsuit after the state recently found the death may have been prevented with “proper medical care and supervision.”
Filed Wednesday, it says the wrongful death of Kevin Brown, 47, of Far Rockaway, happened after inhumane treatment at the jail, “which deprived him of necessary medical attention, his constitutional rights, and his life.”
The suit lists as defendants the county, the jail, correction staff including Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato, and jail medical provider Armor Correctional Health Services, along with unnamed company employees.
The body of Brown, a former car service dispatcher who suffered from seizures, was in full rigor mortis when found in a jail cell on Feb. 10, 2014, according to a state Commission of Correction investigation.
The agency, which oversees jails, said that meant Brown, who died of heart failure, had been dead more than four hours and wasn’t properly checked on by correction staff.
“Every one of his civil rights was violated. The report by the state speaks for itself and is shocking,” said Garden City lawyer Joseph Dell, who filed the lawsuit in the Eastern District of New York.
He emphasized that even after state officials found Armor’s care inadequate following other inmate deaths, the county still renewed the company’s contract in 2013 and 2015.
“They haven’t pulled Armor’s contract,” he said of county officials. “I think the taxpayers of Nassau County would be shocked to know the jail is being run this way.”
Dell said the lawsuit aims to spark reform and get justice for Brown’s death.
“I feel like it could have been avoided if he had been paid attention to,” Brown’s mother, Marcella, 78, said Wednesday of her son’s death. “There’s a void in my life now. I don’t have my son.
“They really do need to be held accountable,” she added of the defendants.
A Nassau spokesman released a statement from county attorney Carnell Foskey saying the county “does not comment on pending litigation.”
An Armor spokeswoman said the company hadn’t been served with Brown’s lawsuit.
“We are sorry for the family’s loss but are very confident that any court would conclude the care met community standards and that Mr. Brown’s death was of natural causes as reflected in the coroner’s report,” she added, saying a privacy law prevented further comment.
Authorities first said Brown was in jail after being arrested in January 2014 on a petty larceny charge. Officials later said Brown was actually being held on a Queens warrant when he died and that case is now sealed.
The lawsuit from his family follows the commission’s additional findings in September that Armor’s deficiencies in Brown’s case resulted in a failure to diagnose or manage heart disease, a mismanaged mental health diagnosis, and inadequate management of his seizures and psychiatric care.
The commission found Brown wasn’t seen by a doctor or taken to a hospital after two seizure episodes, and never got a full mental health assessment despite evidence of having hallucinations during his jail intake.
The agency also found Armor engaged in an overall pattern of “inadequate and neglectful” medical care. It directed Nassau lawmakers to do an inquiry into Armor and told the sheriff to review inmate supervision.
But the lawsuit also says the defendants ignored the commission’s past findings related to jail failures, and the defendants’ “deficiencies, incompetence, medical negligence, medical malpractice” caused Brown’s death.
The suit also accuses the defendants of concealing “their negligent failures” regarding Brown’s death, saying his family’s first sign “something untoward occurred” was a November call from a reporter.
The federal lawsuit is among similar pending litigation from families of three other deceased inmates.
They include relatives of inmates Bartholomew Ryan and John Gleeson. Ryan, 32, was an Iraq War veteran who hung himself in the jail in 2012. Gleeson, who suffered from a medical condition where swelling episodes can lead to breathing emergencies, died in jail custody in 2014.
The family of Antonio Marinaccio Jr., 53, is also planning a lawsuit following his 2015 custody death after a heart attack.