The husband of a Utah woman who died of dehydration at the Weber County jail is now suing the county over her death.
Marion Dena Herrera, 40, died two days after she was booked into the jail on suspicion of forgery and theft on May 18, 2016.
A day after her arrest, Herrera was moved to the medical unit for a “heroin detox treatment,” according to the lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.
The lawsuit alleges the county and Sheriff Terry Thompson “exhibited a shocking degree of deliberate indifference and reckless disregard” for the woman‘s “evident” medical needs.
They failed to provide her adequate medical care, “even though her condition could have been diagnosed, treated and stabilized,” the suit says.
Ogden attorney Mike Studebaker, who represents Joe Herrera, the deceased woman’s husband, said Monday the family was not commenting. Herrera was the mother of five children, according to her obituary.
Weber County Lt. Nate Hutchinson declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday, saying he could not speak publicly about pending litigation. A sheriff’s office spokesman has previously said that patients are routinely checked by medical staff and corrections officers and taken to a local hospital if needed.
Documents admitting Herrera to the medical unit specifically noted she had ”liquid diet restrictions that needed to be monitored,” according to the lawsuit.
Herrera was not offered medication to help her deal with withdrawal symptoms, the lawsuit alleges, and she told jail staff members that she had nausea and had been vomiting.
Styrofoam cups containing liquids were placed on the handcuff port of Herrera’s medical cell door between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 19, 2016, the suit says, and were still on the port when officers arrived to investigate the death the next morning.
A jail nurse saw Herrera alive about 11:30 p.m., the suit states. Two hours later, another jail nurse “visually checked on” Herrera.
At 3:30 a.m. May 20, 2016, jail staff found Herrera “unresponsive and cold to the touch,” and determined she was dead, the suit says.
“Herrera had been deceased long enough that rigor mortis had set in,” the lawsuit reads.
Other inmates reported hearing Herrera “crying out for help” before she died, according to the lawsuit, but “that cry for help was ignored.”
Medical notes detailed that Herrera was experiencing opiate withdrawal and specifically asked that staff members observe her hydration status, the suit says. Her death certificate indicates that the woman died from “drug use and dehydration.”
The negligence on behalf of the county endangered Hererra’s health, the suit says, and caused her “to endure prolonged pain and suffering” leading up to her death.
Herrera’s family is asking a federal judge to award them damages of an amount to be determined at trial.
At least 416 Utahns have died in custody since 2000, according to records The Salt Lake Tribune obtained from all county jails and the state prison system. At least 96 of the total in Utah committed suicide, the No. 1 cause of death for inmates.
In Weber County, 31 inmates died in jail but how they died was not released.
Herrera’s lawsuit is one of several filed against Utah jails in recent months. Duchense County jail officials were sued after a woman there became dehydrated and died, and officials with the Uintah County jail are also facing suit after a man’s family said he died behind bars after not receiving needed medications.