BerkleyJuly 13, 2012
Berkley PSD hit with wrongful death lawsuit
By Jeremy Selweski
C & G Staff Writer
The family of a woman who died of alcohol withdrawal while locked up in the city jail two years ago is suing the Berkley Public Safety Department, which they argue is responsible for her death.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Oakland County Circuit Court on July 9 on behalf of Berkley resident Lisa Kindl, who passed away on July 13, 2010, at the age of 47. It contains 11 total counts against the Public Safety Department — including gross negligence, deprivation of rights and intentional infliction of emotional distress — and requests damages in excess of $25,000. According to the 18-page complaint, Kindl died because she was denied proper emergency medical care while in police custody, despite repeated complaints to Berkley officers.
Mark E. Boegehold, the Southfield-based attorney representing Kindl’s family, declined to be interviewed about the lawsuit, and Public Safety Director Richard Eshman opted not to comment on the case while litigation is ongoing.
The lawsuit states that Kindl, who was known to Berkley Public Safety and its district court system as a “chronic serious alcoholic,” went to the department at about 9:30 a.m. on July 12, 2010, for a routine meeting with her probation officer. But after failing a Breathalyzer test with a blood-alcohol level of 0.057, she was placed under arrest. It was a violation of her bond in a prior drinking-related case to have any alcohol in her system, so she was ordered to be held in police lockup until a court appearance the next day.
During booking, Kindl allegedly warned Berkley officers that she may go through Delirium Tremens, or DTs, a severe form of alcohol withdrawal that involves sudden and severe mental or nervous system changes that can lead to death. The lawsuit says that the officers were fully aware of Kindl’s medical needs as a chronic alcoholic.
Throughout the day, Kindl experienced severe alcohol withdrawal in her jail cell. At around 11 or 11:30 p.m., she notified an officer that she had urinated on herself and was likely experiencing DTs, but according to the lawsuit, no action was taken by Berkley Public Safety. The complaint states that Kindl’s medical needs were met with further indifference at around midnight, when she suffered a seizure, and at about 4:30 a.m., when officers saw that she had a flushed face consistent with alcohol withdrawal.
Then, at 6:05 a.m., officers observed that Kindl’s face and arm were purple and she had died. An autopsy by the Oakland County Medical Examiner determined her cause of death to be alcohol withdrawal and related complications.
The lawsuit alleges that Berkley Public Safety’s conduct toward Kindl “was so reckless as to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury would result.” It also states that some of the officers’ actions “were intentional and done with malice and not in good faith.”
However, the Public Safety Department’s internal investigation of the matter reached no conclusions of wrongdoing by its officers, and a subsequent review by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office yielded similar results.
The case is scheduled to go before Circuit Court Judge Daniel O’Brien.
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