A family filed a civil rights lawsuit against Sacramento County in federal court on Thursday, alleging a 37-year-old man died in the main jail because staff failed to provide medical care for his alcohol dependence.
Anthony Galley died in a holding cell two days after being arrested in February 2022, according to the lawsuit, and allegedly didn’t receive care for severe alcohol withdrawal until after he had a seizure.
Michael Haddad is one of the civil rights attorneys representing Galley’s children, a 14-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy. Haddad said county jail staff should have followed withdrawal protocols and that they had treated Galley’s dependence when he was previously detained in the downtown jail.
Anthony Galley is pictured on his wedding day. His family is suing Sacramento County, alleging he died after jail staff failed to give him necessary medical care.Courtesy of Christina O’Neil
The wrongful death complaint comes roughly three years after the county agreed to improve conditions in its jails to settle a class-action lawsuit. Referred to as the Mays Consent Decree, the court-approved settlement requires the county to comply with constitutional standards and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the main jail and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center.
Improving medical care, mental health and suicide prevention systems in the jails are among the standards the settlement requires the county to meet. But despite the consent decree, Haddad argues the county violated Galley’s rights under the ADA and other laws. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, people detained before a trial have the right to receive care for serious medical conditions.
Before his death in the jail, Galley was arrested for an alleged hit and run after a fight at a Super Bowl party, according to the complaint. He drank about a gallon of hard alcohol a day in the two years before he died.
“It was well known that [county jail staff] had already caused other people to suffer and die from substance abuse withdrawal,” Haddad said in an interview with CapRadio. “And they were being watched closely by the courts and they still couldn't get it right.”
Court-appointed experts have been writing reports on how the county is complying with the consent decree. Part of the October 2022 report references Galley’s death, according to the lawsuit.
Experts Madeleine LaMarre and Karen Saylor wrote the 101-page report, which says jail staff didn’t document completing any health checks on Galley, despite how he told them about his history of severe alcohol abuse.
“This case represents a profound failure to recognize, monitor and treat a patient at risk of severe alcohol withdrawal,” LaMarre and Saylor wrote. “The patient was not evaluated by a medical provider in accordance with policy.”
County spokesperson Kim Nava on Friday said the county had yet to receive the Galley lawsuit. The county generally doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Haddad said the court will decide whether the Galley case should be formally combined or connected to the Mays Consent Decree.
In December, the county Board of Supervisors approved part of a $465 million plan designed to meet requirements laid out in the decree. The plan includes expanding the main jail, such as adding a new intake building with a medical clinic. Nava said county staff will give the board an update on the plan in the spring.
While court-appointed experts have said the main jail is overcrowded, Haddad said he didn’t think Galley’s death was a matter of the jail not being big enough. He added it appears the jail wasn’t staffed sufficiently for the number of people being detained.
“It's unacceptable in this society that a county would run a jail in such a way that people die after 48 hours due to medical neglect,” Haddad said. “And we want to change that.”
Through the lawsuit, Galley’s children are asking the county to improve jail conditions and provide medically necessary care to incarcerated people. They are also seeking other damages and for the county to cover legal fees.
Next steps for the Galley lawsuit include the county sending documents in the next three to six months, Haddad said. He added he expects to get a trial date in about two years.
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