Louisiana Record

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Woman sues parish prison for the death of her son in police custody

By Shanice Harris | Mar 26, 2017

BATON ROUGE — The East Baton Rouge Parish prison system is offering about $27,000 to the family of a 25-year-old man who died in police custody two days after being booked.

The Advocate recently reported that Randall Toler, a diabetic, was booked on one count of shoplifting in the Baton Rouge area in April 2015. The man’s mother, Tina Fugate, who filed a lawsuit in the death last April, alleged that Toler did not receive proper medical attention after he was booked into the parish. He died on April 20, 2015, of diabetic ketoacidosis, or a condition caused by a shortage of insulin, the suit claimed.

“The U.S. Constitution protects prisoners against ‘cruel and unusual punishment,'” Bill Quigley, a professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record. “The courts have interpreted that to mean that jailers are liable for damages in medical cases when their conduct amounts to 'deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.'"

Fugate alleged that Toler told police officers during his booking process that he was a diabetic. He was then given 15 units of regular insulin and held in the parish prison's medical tank for observation. Toler later complained of nausea and wanting to vomit, according to the suit.

A 19th Judicial District Court commissioner suggested that Toler be sent to see a doctor. According to the suit, Toler never saw a doctor and was returned to the medical unit at 4:38 p.m. A few hours later, Toler was found unresponsive and pronounced dead.

“Jailers are totally responsible for the medical care of people under their control. It seems uncontested that he was diabetic,” Quigley said. “It is also uncontested that the jail knew he was diabetic. The nausea and vomiting show he was in a medical crisis. And he did not get the medical care that could have saved his life.”

The prison submitted the settlement proposal to the Metro Council administrator earlier this month. The offer is a settlement of $25,000, plus $1,976.51 in court costs.

“The $25,000 settlement means the jail knew they were exposed to damages for their conduct and they decided to resolve this,” Quigley said. “It is not at all unusual for cases to settle; more than 90 [percent] of cases end up settling. While no one usually admits guilt, the fact that one side pays the other thousands of dollars sends a pretty clear message that everyone knows one side was wrong.”

This is the seventh inmate to die at the prison in the last five years. Quigley believes this should be a cause of concern for the state of Louisiana.

“Seven inmates dying in this prison since 2012 is certainly disturbing and is grounds for further investigation into whether there is a systemic problem with medical care at the jail,” he said.

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East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office