Jails owe inmates 'special duty of care,' attorney says regarding negligence suit against Assumption Parish

By Carrie Bradon | Nov 5, 2018

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A lawsuit filed by the mother of a man who died in the Assumption Parish Detention Center in February alleges the sheriff's staff neglected to give her son, Edward Murphy, his heart medication.

Edward Murphy had been booked into the jail, located in Napoleonville, after he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

"Prisons and jails owe inmates a 'reasonable' duty of care, and a 'special duty of care,'" Peter Vujin, a Miami-based attorney, told the Louisiana Record in commenting on the suit. "Those are concepts from the law of negligence, that since times immemorial commanded us, as a matter of our Anglo tradition, not to hurt another human being negligently, to wit: even without intent to hurt."

Vujin said this means that every individual is required to exercise maximum caution to avoid harming another person, and in prisons and jails, the administration is required to pay a "special duty of care" to inmates, to avoid injury. 

"As regards the prisons and jails, the administration thereof owes a 'special duty of care' to the inmates, which means the jails and prisons must exercise maximum caution not to harm inmates, such as by not giving the medicine," Vujin said.

In Vujin's opinion, the incident should be classified as negligent homicide, as the lack of action on the defendants' part directly caused the plaintiff's son's death. 

"Sadly, this practice is far too common, inmates die due to lack of care all the time," Vujin said.

The suit filed by Murphy's mother seeks damages for physical and mental pain that was endured by her son prior to death, as well as funeral and medical expenses. The plaintiff is being represented by David Vicnair of Scott, Vicknair, Hair and Checki, who was not available for comment.

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