King County to pay $750,000 to settle lawsuit over man who killed himself in Seattle jail
King County has agreed to pay $750,000 to the family of a man who killed himself in the downtown Seattle jail after filing a lawsuit alleging jail officials knew or should have known that the man was in crisis but failed to protect him from himself.
Michael Clinard, an acclaimed Seattle magazine-published photographer and father of three, had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and bipolar disorder after suffering a traumatic brain injury in a violent assault in December 2013 in Brooklyn, New York, according to a lawsuit filed last year in US District Court in Seattle.
Her family’s attorney, Ryan Dreveskracht, noted in the lawsuit that people with brain damage have a significantly increased risk of developing depression, symptoms of psychosis and other mental illnesses.
“Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened to Michael,” the lawsuit said.
Following his injury, Clinard’s mental health declined, according to the claim. He began to use drugs and alcohol heavily and exhibited violent mood swings. In February 2017, according to the lawsuit, he assaulted his wife, who was granted a protective order.
Clinard, who had no prior significant criminal history, was charged for several months with driving under the influence, reckless driving and breach of protective order. The lawsuit said much of his behavior was self-destructive and that he told paramedics after driving his car into a tree that he was planning to kill himself.
Clinard was ordered to appear in Bothell City Court on June 3, 2017, after leaving a tearful message on his wife’s phone – a breach of the protective order. At the hearing, according to the trial, Clinard was in obvious crisis. When the judge ordered him into custody pending another hearing, Clinard shouted, “I won’t live that long. I don’t intend to live more than two weeks! You just signed my death certificate!
On his way out of court, Clinard attempted to headbutt the security guard and grab his Taser, in what the lawsuit described as a “suicide by a cop” attempt.
The judge, defense attorney and prosecutor agreed that Clinard posed an imminent threat to himself and the judge ordered that he be evaluated by a designated mental health expert. The next day, the judge again issued an order for Clinard’s assessment.
However, the lawsuit said those orders were not followed, even though King County Jail officials knew or should have known that Clinard was mentally unstable and suicidal.
Dreveskracht, the attorney, said the judge’s orders were faxed to the King County Jail and a police officer told the booking agent that Clinard was suicidal. However, according to the lawsuit, the prison admissions officer checked a box that Clinard was not suicidal just an hour after his outburst in court.
“Information regarding Michael’s suicidality, suicidal outburst and mental health crisis was entirely ignored throughout the admissions process and, therefore, the remainder of his time in prison,” the lawsuit said. .
He was never seen by a mental health expert, although doctors and nurses at the prison were told he had taken several medications which should have alerted them to his mental health issues, including lithium, Zoloft, Adderall and Lorazepam.
“Based on these prescriptions alone, any healthcare professional exercising his
professional judgment would have inferred that Michael was seriously mentally ill,” the lawsuit said.
While he received lithium and Zoloft, an antidepressant, prison policies prohibited him from receiving the other drugs because they could be abused. The lawsuit notes that withdrawal from lorazepam can be dangerous and that one of the side effects is an increased risk of suicide.
Over the next few weeks, Clinard repeatedly sought medical and psychiatric help for his deteriorating mental state, according to the lawsuit. Other inmates also said there was “something wrong” with him, that he was pacing and seemed seriously depressed, according to the lawsuit.
On July 3, Clinard was found dead in his cell with a ligature around his neck.
“Throughout the admissions and selection process, there were multiple opportunities to
get Michael the psychiatric care he needed, but every provider in the chain completely dropped the ball,” Dreveskracht wrote.
King County Jail spokesman Noah Haglund acknowledged payment of the settlement, which he said was split evenly between the Adult and Juvenile Detention Department and the prison’s health services.
“All prison staff – in health care, corrections and support roles – are saddened every time someone loses their life while in our care,” he said.
“We provide a wide variety of services to address physical and behavioral health needs, including mental distress [and] we have strong protocols in place for suicide prevention,” he added.
He said the jail was prohibited by privacy laws from discussing the circumstances surrounding Clinard’s case, but said “we can say that everyone incarcerated in King County jails undergoes a thorough health screening by reception nurse” to check for risk factors.