Attorneys representing the mother of Daren Borges, retired Humboldt State University professor Stephany Borges, have issued a statement in response to the Eureka Police Department’s press release regarding a pretrial ruling in the civil rights action arising from Daren’s death in a sobering cell at the Humboldt County Correctional Facility. Woodland Hills attorney Dale Galipo, and Glendale attorney John Fattahi, filed the lawsuit in 2015 on behalf of Ms. Borges against the City of Eureka, the County of Humboldt, the contracted jail medical provider California Forensic Medical Group, Incorporated (CFMG), and various individuals who failed to provide Daren with medical care.
The January 25, 2016 ruling by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers dismissed Ms. Borges’s claims against the City of Eureka and its officers, while permitting Ms. Borges’s claims against the County of Humboldt, Sheriff Michael Downey, and four correctional officers to proceed to trial. CFMG previously agreed to settle Ms. Borges’s claims for the maximum amount of liability under California medical malpractice law.
Daren was taken into custody after a concerned citizen called to report that he was behaving erratically, including taking off his clothes and hitting his head on the ground. In fact, Daren suffered from schizophrenia and was apparently having a psychiatric episode on the day in question. Jail personnel were familiar with Daren’s mental health issues as they had been administering psychiatric medications to him when they released him from the jail just four days before his death. Drugs such as methamphetamine are often used by people like Daren with untreated schizophrenia, and officers know this.
Attorneys for Ms. Borges believe they have grounds to appeal Wednesday’s decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, but will make that decision at a later date. Witness testimony, as well as the video recordings of Daren’s arrest, showed that Daren had signs and symptoms of a high level of methamphetamine intoxication and possible overdose, excited delirium, and/or a head injury. Officers are trained at the basic police academy that any one of these three conditions is sufficiently serious that it requires immediate medical attention. Even though Daren’s condition deteriorated, the EPD officers failed to take the simple step of either calling an ambulance and monitoring Daren’s condition, or taking him directly to the hospital. Instead, they chose to take him to jail, where they saw him further deteriorate while they stood idly by. Expert witnesses testified that if EPD or jail personnel had even minimally performed their duty to affirmatively address Daren’s medical condition, he would have been taken to the emergency room for life-saving medical treatment.
With respect to the County jail officers, the Court found that Ms. Borges presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find that a reasonable correctional officer “would have appreciated the high degree of risk” faced by Daren and taken reasonable measures to address it, such as calling medical staff to fully evaluate Daren instead of locking him up by himself in the poorly monitored sobering cell where they watched his level of distress escalate toward his eventual death. The Court also decided that a jury could find Daren’s death was caused by the County and Sheriff Downey’s deliberately indifferent custom and practice of insufficiently assessing and monitoring arrestees who are placed in sobering cells. Further, a jury could conclude that similar disregard for the medical needs of Martin Cotton II made the County aware of the dangers of inadequate screening and monitoring of arrestees with medical issues.
Judge Gonzalez-Rogers is expected to set a trial date for the claims against the County defendants on or about February 6, 2017.
About Dale Galipo
Dale Galipo is an attorney specializing in civil rights law based in Woodland Hills. His office currently is handling approximately sixty wrongful death police misconduct cases. Galipo was the lead attorney in the Cotton case, in which a settlement was reached with Humboldt County, then a jury awarded Cotton’s family $4,575,000 against the City of Eureka and its officers for using excessive force and being deliberately indifferent to Cotton’s medical needs.
About John Fattahi
John Fattahi is a Glendale-based civil rights attorney with an emphasis on police excessive force. For more information, please visit www.johnfattahi.com.