Lawsuit: Jail failures responsible for intoxicated prisoner’s death

December 19, 2018

SANTA FE -- The wife of a Santa Fe man who died in the Santa Fe County jail two years ago is suing the jail, Santa Fe County and several unnamed jail workers for not properly screening her husband before he died of suspected alcohol withdrawal less than 24 hours after he was booked.

John DeLaura was arrested for on Dec. 17, 2016 for assault on a household member and battery on a household member. He had allegedly pushed his wife, Lois Bealle DeLaura.

Lois DeLaura, whose wrongful death suit was filed in state District Court on Monday, told Santa Fe police that John Delaura had been on a three-day drinking binge.

The lawsuit was filed for her by attorney Cammie Nichols, who has filed other wrongful death lawsuits against the jail.

Jail video shows DeLaura “weaving and swaying, leaning on the wall, and looking like he was trying to maintain his balance” the morning he was booked, the suit says.

“On information and belief, Mr. DeLaura’s withdrawal symptoms steadily worsened throughout his confinement in (the jail), and his medical situation continued to be neglected by... employees,” the suit states.

Other prisoners said DeLaura appeared to not be well while he was in his cell, according to the lawsuit. He was found on the floor in the cell and shaking the morning of Dec. 18, 2016, and emergency medical staff pronounced him dead after performing life-saving measures. The Office of the Medical Investigator determined the cause of death to be chronic ethanol abuse, with contributing factors of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, the suit says.

The lawsuit says an unnamed nurse who didn’t properly handle DeLaura’s jail intake, by only partially completing intake forms and not making any note of DeLaura’s intoxication level.

“In fact, several sections of the required form(s) were left blank and multiple critical assessments went unperformed,” the suit says.

In March 2015, prisoner Thomas Pederson, 55, also died in the jail of suspected alcohol withdrawal. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed in March 2017, but attorneys from both sides agreed to drop the case last month.

A lawsuit was also filed on behalf of Stacy Gambler, who was found dead in her Rio Arriba County jail cell in May 2015, shortly after she was transferred from the Santa Fe County jail. Her autopsy said she died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to cirrhosis of the liver from chronic alcohol abuse.

Both cases were recently settled.

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