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St. Clair County and doctor deny liability in wrongful death suit involving inmate

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | Jul 14, 2015


All defendants involved in a woman’s wrongful death suit claiming her husband died as a result of seizures while incarcerated have denied liability in the case and are accusing each other of being responsible for the alleged damages.

Kelli Sifuentes, as special administrator of the estate of Juan Sifuentes, filed a May 8 lawsuit against St. Clair County, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, Richard Watson in his capacity as St. Clair County sheriff, Wexford Health Sources Inc. and Dr. Dennis Larson.

According to the complaint, the decedent was incarcerated on May 13, 2014, in St. Clair County, which had a duty to provide medical services and medication to the inmate.

Sifuentes claims one of the defendants failed to administer prescription medicine, including alprazolam, while the decedent was confined. The decedent allegedly suffered seizures as a result, which led to his death, the suit states.

Wexford and Larson denied the allegations in their June 8 answer through attorney Kevin J. Adrian of Brown & James in St. Louis. Instead, they claim that any alleged violations of the decedent’s rights to care was not within their control, meaning any alleged injuries were the direct and proximate result of third parties.

The defendants add that to the extent they were requested to provide care, “they provided the requisite care and treatment to plaintiff’s decedent in accordance with the standards of care for their profession.”

“These defendants take reasonable and necessary steps to provide for the needs of all inmates who request medical services in accordance with their licensure and complies with Department of Corrections’ rules and regulations and, as such, these defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from liability,” the answer states.

Sifuentes denied the allegations in her June 12 reply to the defendants’ affirmative defenses.

St. Clair County and its officials also denied the allegations in their June 18 answer through attorney Katherine A. Porter of Becker, Hoerner, Thompson & Ysursa in Belleville.

In their affirmative defenses, the defendants claim that any alleged injuries were caused by co-defendants Wexford and Larson.

Additionally, they allege immunity from liability under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act as well as Qualified Good Faith Immunity.

The plaintiff seeks damages in excess of $50,000, plus attorney’s fees and costs.

Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot scheduled a status conference for August 17 at 9 a.m.

Sifuentes is represented by Joseph A. Bartholomew of Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin in Belleville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-278

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Organizations in this Story

Becker, Hoerner, Thompson & Ysursa Cook, Ysursa, Bartholomew, Brauer & Shevlin

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