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Inmate's family files lawsuit in Nassau jail death

William Satchell died while in custody in Nassau's

William Satchell died while in custody in Nassau's jail. Credit: Satchell Family

The family of a Hempstead man who died in Nassau jail custody in 2016 has filed a federal lawsuit against the county and the jail's former medical provider following a state finding that the fatality was preventable.

The lawsuit filed Monday alleges William Satchell was the victim of medical malpractice and wrongful death, and claims he “was unlawfully and unreasonably denied medical attention.”

The state Commission of Correction found last year that the 63-year-old retired janitor’s death on March 24, 2016, “was preventable if not for the shocking level of inadequate medical care and negligence of the medical staff” of Armor Correctional Health Services — then the jail’s medical provider.

The plaintiffs' attorney Valerie Hawkins wrote in the federal complaint that Satchell suffered from medical conditions that included high blood pressure and diabetes. The Hempstead lawyer further claimed the “failure and refusal” of Armor, the Sheriff’s Department and Nassau University Medical Center to give Satchell proper medication and treatment caused his death.

The state commission's report said Satchell died from cardiac arrest due to an artery blockage in his lungs while getting treatment as a jail inmate at NUMC — also named as a lawsuit defendant. Satchell had been jailed after his arrest a week earlier on marijuana and weapons charges.

The commission concluded Armor repeatedly failed to recognize “life-threatening manifestations” of “a new onset medical condition” — or diabetes — and made a “definite medication error” by giving Satchell an antipsychotic known to increase blood sugar level, Newsday previously reported.

The state also determined Armor “grossly mismanaged” Satchell’s high blood pressure and delayed seeking emergency hospital care for him when he was “critically unstable,” which was “contributory to his death.”

Satchell’s brother, Earl Toppin, and Satchell’s son, Antoine Satchell, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. It demands a jury trial and an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages for rights violations, including what the plaintiffs allege was the unlawful detention of Satchell and themselves after a raid at their home.

The state commission has found Armor, whose role at the jail ended in August 2017, provided inadequate care in at least eight of the 14 Nassau inmate deaths during the company’s tenure. Satchell’s death was among four inmate deaths that commission officials found may have been prevented.

The commission’s chairman also concluded after the deaths of Satchell and two other inmates in 2016 that the Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, shares responsibility with Armor for failing to initiate meaningful reforms after previous jail custody fatalities.

At the time of the state's findings, then-County Executive Edward Mangano's administration released a statement saying officials believed the county "will be found to have acted in the best interest" of inmates. 

A spokeswoman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday that the county "cannot comment on pending litigation," and a NUMC spokesman said hospital policy also was not to comment on such matters.

Armor previously contested the state’s finding in Satchell’s death, saying its staff showed no negligence or incompetence in connection with his care and disagreeing that treatment he got at the jail contributed to his death.

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