An unprecedented amount of 12.6 million was awarded to Mr. Collins after he suffered an irreversible brain injury while in police custody. The Encinitas man David Collins sued the County of San Diego, its Sheriff’s Deputies Matthew Chavez and David Sanchez, and Vista Detention Center nurses Roela Carolino and Johnathon Symmonds. The suit was for negligence during the November 18, 2016 arrest.
The police responded to a man who was receiving medical attention from paramedics, and claimed he was drunk so immediately stopped the paramedics assistance. They took him to jail where he would later suffer irreparable brain damage. As it turns out he actually had a condition called hyponatremia caused by very low sodium with symptoms that included slurred speech, trouble walking, and hallucinations. His blood tests were negative for any alcohol and drugs.
During his detention he fell twice striking his head on the concrete floor which caused a brain bleed and contusion. He was not transported to the hospital until 13 hours later. By the time he reached the hospital, his sodium levels were critical. Hospital physicians tried to raise his sodium for fear of the consequences from head trauma, but that’s when he developed a further brain injury called osmotic demyelination syndrome or OSD. The fall which lead to a brain injury to the frontal lobe permanently affected his judgment and insight. The OSD ruined his mobility and speech. If Mr. Collins was transported to a hospital and not jail both ailments would have been prevented.
“This was a hard-won fight for us,” said attorney Elizabeth Teixeira, who litigated the case on behalf of Collins. “The county spent the entire case refusing to take any responsibility for their actions that cost our client his future.”
The Sheriff’s Department released a statement saying they disagreed with the jury verdict and that it was Collins’ behavior prior to his arrest which contributed to his illness. The statement said Collins spent two to three weeks drinking beer, playing video games and “not even stopping to attend to his basic human needs.”
“It is clear to see that Mr. Collins failure to take care of himself is what caused his harm in the first place, and the jury was wrong to not identify it as a substantial factor in this case,” Lt. Justin White wrote in the statement. “If Mr. Collins had tended to his own needs, first responders would not have been called, and he would not have ended up needing to go to the hospital for treatment.”
The lack of accountability is troublesome. The police didn’t need to arrest Collins, he wasn’t drunk. He needed medical attention, which is why the paramedics were called. The officers that arrested Collins are not medical professionals, but if they would deferred to the ones on scene, the trauma and brain injury would have been avoided.