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Testimony continues in suit over veteran’s suicide

Ex-Marine Lance Cpl. Bartholomew Ryan, 32, killed himself

Ex-Marine Lance Cpl. Bartholomew Ryan, 32, killed himself in Nassau County jail on Feb. 24, 2012. His family's attorney says the county and the facility's medical provider acted with negligence and failed to treat his problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and drug withdrawal. Credit: Handout

Combat veteran Bartholomew Ryan “was able to make it out of Iraq, but he wasn’t able to make it out of the Nassau County jail,” hanging himself in 2012 after the county and the facility’s medical provider acted with negligence, a plaintiff’s lawyer said Tuesday.

The attorney for Ryan’s family asked jurors to hold the defendants responsible for the suicide of Ryan, 32, on Feb. 24, 2012, as he suffered from problems the plaintiff claims included post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder and drug withdrawal.

“When you have a man who comes before you and says ‘I have all these problems’ . . . he needs to be treated before he acts,” plaintiff’s attorney Nicholas Warywoda said in his closing argument in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. “ . . . Bart deserved care and he didn’t get it. And he suffered because of it — suffered so much that he committed suicide.”

However, attorneys for the county and the jail’s medical provider, Armor Correctional Health Services, said their clients had no responsibility for Ryan’s suicide.

Armor attorney John Doody asked jurors to hold Ryan “accountable for the decision he made to take his own life.” He said there was no evidence Ryan was suicidal or going through drug withdrawal behind bars, calling the suicide “not foreseeable at all.”

The Armor lawyer also argued that the fact that the inmate failed a correction officer’s suicide screening because he reported taking mental health medication didn’t make him suicidal.

Doody also said Ryan wasn’t suffering from a mental health disability where he couldn’t control his actions. He said Ryan “knew what he was doing” and waited for correction officers “to be otherwise occupied” before he hanged himself.

Ryan was jailed on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs after walking out of a drug treatment program. His family has said he came back from serving in the Marines in Iraq a changed person and went through a series of drug-related arrests and vehicular wrecks.

Testimony showed Ryan told Armor nurses his problems included PTSD, and that he reported taking mental health medication on Feb. 23, 2012 — the day he went to jail.

Warywoda told jurors Armor psychiatrist Vincent Manetti was negligent because he failed to diagnose Ryan with PTSD or any other mental health issues. Manetti also didn’t prescribe any medication, or make sure other medical personnel checked Ryan for drug withdrawal symptoms in the six hours before he killed himself, testimony showed.

Manetti testified Ryan told him he didn’t “want to play the psych card,” hadn’t taken his mental health medication for weeks and kept insisting “about his problem being with drugs.”

But Warywoda said Tuesday that Ryan’s suicide “was caused by the defendants’ failures,” and the veteran “wasn’t thinking like a reasonable person” because of his mental health issues and drug withdrawal.

Warywoda also referenced the testimony of Armor senior vice president Karen Davies, a nurse and military veteran.

“She trained medics in Afghanistan. But when Bart Ryan needed care on Long Island under her watch, he didn’t get it,” the plaintiff’s attorney said.

He asked the jury to award $3 million for Ryan’s pain and suffering, along with $10.5 million in punitive damages — the amount Armor earned for its Nassau contract that year.

But Doody argued the plaintiff’s burden wasn’t met for any constitutional violations.

Nassau Deputy County Attorney James Scott added that evidence showed Ryan was “properly assessed by the jail, properly housed and properly supervised.” He said jail logbooks showed correction officers watched Ryan and “did their jobs,” and would have noted some changes and alerted Armor if he’d been in drug withdrawal in his cell in the hours before his suicide.

Jurors will continue their deliberations Wednesday.

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