Family of man who ended his life in the Spokane County Jail sues for wrongful death in federal court

Spokane County Jail

SPOKANE, Wash — A man who died by suicide in the Spokane County Jail was not properly cared for before his death, according to a lawsuit filed by his family in federal court.

The Estate of Chris Rogers filed a $5.25 million claim against Spokane County and a company called NaphCare which contracts with the county to provide health care for inmates.

Rogers was initially arrested November 28, 2017 for robbery, assault, theft of a motor vehicle and hit and run. According to the lawsuit, pre-trial services immediately recognized that Rogers had mental health concerns, that he was on medication and on a “mental health hold” from Frontier Behavioral Health.

The documents say he made suicidal statements to law enforcement and that the jail medical staff noted that he was “voicing current or recent suicidal thoughts.” Jail staff also noted there were “past suicide attempts, strong plans, or treatment for attempts.” Rogers was placed on suicide watch, then gave him medication for schizophrenia.

He was removed from suicide watch eight hours later.

In the days following, the lawsuit says Rogers received one visit from Frontier Behavioral Health for 15 minutes. “Between November 30, 2017 and December 8, 2017, [Rogers] called the public defender’s office five times,” the suit claims. “Each time, [Rogers] hung up after a minute or two.

On December 8, Rogers finally met with his public defender for 15 minutes. Three days later, it was requested that Rogers have a competency evaluation at Eastern State Hospital. A doctor came to the jail to conduct the examination.

The lawsuit says that on December 20, 2017 Rogers again “told the medical staff he was having thoughts if self-harm and ‘the voices also tell him to kill himself.'”

Court documents say that on December 22, 2017 at 7:50 pm, Rogers was “placed in a restraint chair where his arms and legs were restrained by detention staff after [Rogers] was found with a towel tied around his neck.”

The medical staff placed him on a mental health watch with a suicide gown and a mattress.

The next day, [Rogers] was again removed from suicide watch; the court documents say this was after he was asked if he would tell the staff if he planned to act on suicidal thoughts and he said no.

On January 3, the court documents note Rogers made one last call to his public defender, which lasted two minutes before he hung up. That was at 10:12 am.

Less than an hour later, Rogers was found hanging in his cell.

The lawsuit says the Spokane County Public Defenders’ Office “did not have policies, procedures, practices or training to address clients who have known mental health disorders, and did not employ or utilize a social worker, mental health professional, or other person experienced with client needs.”

The suit alleges the public defender’s office had a practice of “not assigning cases to an attorney because the attorney had reached its maximum number of assigned cases in a month.”

Because of that, the lawsuit claims, no one from that office was monitoring Rogers’ mental health.

The suit claims NaphCare never adequately examined Rogers and never provided treatment to him.

“[Rogers] required acute mental health care and medication to control and/or alleviate his mental health issues, and neither NaphCare nor the County of Spokane provided necessary medical care, failed to administer necessary medication, failed to transfer [Rogers] to an adequate medical facility.”

The suit claims the agencies were negligent and showed deliberate indifference. It also claims they violated Rogers’ 14th Amendment rights by failing to provide safe conditions of confinement and provide needed medical care.

Rogers’ estate, with his father Chris representing him, are suing for Rogers’ wrongful death.

The suit was officially filed in U.S. District Court on December 21st. Spokane County and Naphcare have yet to respond.

RELATED HEADLINES: Spokane County Jail inmate dies, eighth inmate death in 14 months