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Family Members of Jacksonville Inmate Threaten Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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The family of Lina Odom is considering filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office after the 28-year-old died in jail. While her death was certainly drug-related, the question of whether the sheriff’s office did enough to save the young woman’s life is being investigated by both the county and the family’s lawyers.

Odom was in the county jail for six days before officers transferred her to the hospital where she later died. According to the medical examiner, she died of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The condition is characterized by a thickening of the heart muscle. In addition, the ME noted that a contributing cause of the young woman’s death was a pulmonary edema—a condition in which there is excess fluid in the lungs. The ME also found cocaine, fentanyl, and Narcan in her bloodstream.

Who is Responsible for Her Death? 

It may be tempting to say that her death was the result of her own choices and her addiction to dangerous drugs. That is certainly true. Nonetheless, she was locked up for a victimless crime and in the exclusive power of the sheriff’s department. They owed her a duty of care. According to the attorney that the family hired, Lina Odom had been locked up for 6 days before being taken to the hospital. On the 5th day, she began asking for medical attention. By the time she was given the medical attention that she asked for, it was too late.

Another Inmate’s Testimony Could be the Key 

According to the woman’s father, another inmate texted him concerning his daughter’s stay at Duval County Jail. The inmate claims that Odom was going through withdrawal when she got there. During her stay, her condition worsened. She requested medical attention but was ignored. In addition, there was evidence that Odom passed out in the shower and had “turned purple”. Fellow inmates carried her to her bed.

Suing a Jail for Improper Care 

Since jails are state controlled and operated, the rules for suing them are a bit different than private entities. There are restrictions on suing for punitive damages and the statute of limitations is shorter. Gathering evidence is also more difficult. The lawyer for Lina Odom’s family will need access to video surveillance to show that the police officers manning the jail either knew or should have known that Lina Odom required urgent medical care.

In this case, the fact that Lina’s own choices put her in a position to be at the mercy of the Jacksonville County jail shouldn’t matter, but it does. Ultimately, it comes down to convincing a jury that the police officers were negligent in not rendering assistance to Odom in time. On the other hand, there is widespread belief that addiction is a choice and it was her choices which ultimately ended her life. That’s not wrong, but it neglects the fact that the jail is required to render medical assistance to its prisoners. They failed that duty and Lina Odom died as a result of that failure.

Jacksonville Wrongful Death Attorney Charlie J. Gillette  

For the past decade, Charlie J. Gillette has been helping families in Jacksonville and Georgia recover damages when their loved ones die due to another’s negligence. Give us a call at (912) 289-4205 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about your case.

Resources:

news4jax.com/news/family-launches-investigation-into-woman-s-in-custody-death

news4jax.com/news/autopsy-inmate-in-jso-custody-died-from-heart-condition_

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