Lawsuit alleges inmate’s death resulted from jail medical staff’s denial of HIV medication for months

Aiexpress – A new federal wrongful death lawsuit claims that an inmate at a California jail died due to the denial of lifesaving medication by the medical staff. Despite having the inmate’s prescription and being informed of his need for the medication to survive, they failed to provide it. The inmate was diagnosed with HIV, which later progressed to AIDS.

Nicholas Overfield, who was 38 years old at the time, found himself in a dire situation when his mother paid him a visit at the El Dorado County Jail on April 22, 2022. He was unable to stand or speak and relied on a wheelchair for mobility. Tragically, several months later, Nicholas passed away after being moved from the jail to two different hospitals and finally to a hospice. The lawsuit, which was recently filed in a federal court in California, holds El Dorado County and Wellpath Community Care, LLC, the jail’s healthcare contractor, accountable for their actions.

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According to Patrick Buelna, a civil rights attorney from Oakland-based Pointer & Buelna LLP, Nick’s case exemplifies the failure of Wellpath to provide detainees with basic human rights and medical care. Buelna emphasizes that Nick’s unnecessary suffering and tragic death shed light on a disturbing pattern of negligence by Wellpath, the largest provider of jail medical services nationwide. It is evident that the company disregards the health and well-being of individuals in the custody of the justice system. The objective of this lawsuit is not only to seek justice for Nick and his family but also to ensure that such inhumane treatment never occurs again, both in California and elsewhere.

According to Attorney Ty Clarke from Pointer and Buelna LLP, Overfield’s case is not the only one of its kind in California.

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According to Clarke, there have been multiple instances in California where Wellpath has neglected to provide HIV positive individuals with the medication they need while in jail. Clarke asserts that Wellpath is responsible for Nick’s death and expresses outrage that the company continues to receive significant taxpayer funds despite providing subpar medical care. This situation is alarming as Wellpath’s medical care falls far below acceptable standards.

Law&Crime reached out to representatives from El Dorado County and Wellpath for comment, however, they did not respond at the time of publication.

According to court documents, the case began when Overfield was arrested in February 2022 and taken to a jail in Northern California, located approximately 135 miles northeast of San Francisco. He was apprehended for failing to appear in court.

When the police arrested him at his residence, he informed them about his HIV positive status and emphasized the importance of having access to his prescribed antiretroviral medication while in custody. His mother, Lesley Overfield, handed over the medication to the officers, who took it with them, as mentioned in court documents. However, according to medical records cited in the court documents, it is alleged that he was not provided with his medication throughout the two-month duration of his incarceration at the jail.

According to court documents, by April 22, 2022, his health had deteriorated significantly. He had become too weak to walk and had to be brought into a visiting room in a wheelchair for a visit with his mom.

According to the lawsuit, the individual appeared to be disoriented and was unable to communicate with his mother.

Filled with worry, she hurriedly left the room to approach the deputy. Her main concern was to find out what had occurred to her son.

According to court documents, the deputy responded to the woman by stating that she would need to ask her son. This response was particularly cruel considering that her son was unable to speak. Afterward, the deputy left the building.

The following day, his mother reached out to a jail nurse regarding her son’s condition. The nurse informed her that he was in the infirmary because he had “lost control of his bowels,” as stated in the lawsuit.

He was quickly transported from the jail to Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe that night due to his deteriorating physical condition and changes in his mental state, as stated in the court documents. He had been experiencing frequent falls and had been immobile for several days.

According to a complaint, a jail nurse informed a hospital nurse that he had not been able to access his HIV medications since being taken into custody in February. The complaint references a medical record from April 24, 2022.

Due to the severity of his condition, he was transferred from the Lake Tahoe hospital to a hospital in San Francisco for further treatment.

According to court documents, he was placed into hospice care shortly after, leading to his unfortunate and preventable death on June 21, 2022.

According to the death certificate, the varicella-zoster virus caused encephalitis, leading to the individual’s death.

According to the lawsuit, Nick contracted the deadly condition while he was a pretrial detainee at El Dorado County Jail. The death certificate reveals that there were two months between the onset of the condition and Nick’s passing. The lawsuit accuses the jail of negligence, breach of duty, negligent supervision, management or control, violation of public policy, and failure to provide constitutionally adequate medical care.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants either had no knowledge of or, even worse, chose to disregard the seriousness of Nick’s overall health and medical condition. It wasn’t until his mother intervened that they were forced to acknowledge these issues. The lawsuit argues that this represents a shocking disregard for the basic medical care that should be provided to a pretrial detainee who is HIV positive.

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