SALT LAKE CITY — The mother of a man who died of starvation and dehydration while at the Salt Lake County Jail has sued the sheriff, the county and numerous county employees.
Tammy Martinez, the mother of Carlos Umana, 20, alleges in a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, that Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder; Salt Lake County; MHM, a Virginia-based provider of health care services; and 20 employees of both MHM and the county showed "deliberate indifference" toward her son.
The woman is seeking $1.72 million to compensate for his death and the suffering she believes Umana endured.
"Considering Carlos' severe loss of body weight and attendant medical issues over a four-month period, Carlos' failing health, and ultimately his death, were manifestly foreseeable," the lawsuit states. "Carlos was caused to endure prolonged pain and suffering leading up to the time of his death, even though his condition could have been stabilized."
When the then-19-year-old entered the jail, he weighed in at 180 pounds, the lawsuit states. When he died in custody, he weighed only 77 pounds.
According to the lawsuit, the man suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. His mother tried to provide nurses in the jail with his medications, but was told they would be provided in-house.
While at the jail, Umana came to believe that the provided food was poisoned.
"There was no actual substance to those beliefs, yet they were sincerely held beliefs by Carlos," the complaint states. "Carlos firmly believed that he was being poisoned. As a result of these erroneous beliefs, Carlos lost more than 100 pounds of body weight in four months. This unusual and extreme weight loss was regularly observed by defendants."
In the lawsuit they contend that those at the jail should have provided adequate care and attention to those in their custody who suffer from mental health conditions. Umana's mother apparently told jail officials her son had previously attempted suicide and was still at risk.
The family is asking for relief in the amount of $725,000 "as appropriate compensation for the pain and suffering Carlos endured prior to his death" and an additional $1 million "for loss of society and companionship."
They are also asking for punitive damages and payment of attorney fees.
Just after Umana's death, Winder told the Deseret News they took the death "very seriously" and would be evaluating their procedures and making some short-term changes to prevent similar events in the future.
"It is highly problematic to have an individual starve to death inside a correctional facility, and if I have my way, it'll never happen again," he said at the time.
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