Wrongful Death in Police Custody

Diabetic Man Died After 40 Hours in Custody Without Insulin

Settlement: $1,250,000
Case: M.P., as Administratrix of the Goods, Chattels and Credits of A.V. and on Behalf of the Heirs and Distributees of the Deceased, A.V. v City of New York, No. 2742/03
Court: Queens Supreme
Judge: Martin E. Ritholtz
Date: 2/7/2007

Plaintiff Attorney(s)
Adam M. Orlow; The Orlow Firm, Flushing, NY

Defense Attorney(s)
Philip Pizzuot, Assistant Corporation Counsel,
Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel, New York, NY

FACTS & ALLEGATIONS: At about 8:30 p.m. on September 20, 2002, plaintiff’s decedent A.V, 45, an insurer’s claims adjuster, was arrested by a fire marshal for allegedly setting off a sprinkler system in a bathroom of New York Downtown Hospital, in Manhattan. A type-1 diabetic, A.V was held in police custody until his arraignment at about 1 P.M. on September 22. After being released and returning to his home, he collapsed while taking a shower. He was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A.V.’s sister, M.P., claimed that A.V. died because he did not have access to his insulin during his 40-hour-long detention.

M.P., acting as administratrix of A.V.’s estate, sued the City of New York. The estate alleged that the City’s Police Department failed to provide timely, adequate medical care.

M.P. contended that she brought A.V. to his home and tat A.V. indicated that he could treat himself faster than an emergency room could, so there was no reason to go to a hospital. However, M.P. claimed that she did not know whether A.V. ever took his insulin before he died.

The estate’s counsel claimed that A.V. was wearing a medic-alert necklace and had a syringe with him at the time of his arrest. He contended that fire marshal Thomas Silvestri confiscated the syringe and took A.V. to a police precinct.

Defense counsel contended that, while in custody, A.F. was seen twice by paramedics. He claimed that A.V. did not express a need to seek treatment at a hospital. He also claimed that a precinct paramedic recommended that A.V. seek treatment at a hospital, but that A.V. refused. Defense counsel produced a waiver to that effect.

In response, the estate’s counsel argues that the arresting officer, an emergency medical technician at the precinct, and an emergency medical technician at the booking station all were aware of A.V.’s insulin requirement. He also contended that the waiver was not really a waiver, as it indicated only a waiver of pre-hospital care. He argued that there was no waiver of a trip to the hospital, which was an option on the form that A.V. did not mark off. He further argues that, at the time he signed the waiver, A.V. was not yet in need of insulin. After signing the waiver, A.V remained in custody for another 30 hours.

INJURIES/DAMAGES: death – diabetic ketoacidosis
A.V. died September 22, 2002, at age 45. An autopsy listed his cause of death as diabetic ketoacidosis – a condition that stems from a lack of insulin. The estate’s expert endocrinologist determined that A.V. would have died even if he had taken insulin immediately upon his release from custody. The estate sought recover of damages for A.V.’s wrongful death.

Conrad Berenson, PhD, labor economics, Woodbury, NY (did not testify)
Henry Branche, general investigations, Massapequa, NY (did not testify)

Fred Goldman, PhD., economics, New York, NY (did not testify)
Loren Wissner Greene, M.D., endocrinology, New York, NY (did not testify)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.