By Jill Gosche
A Fremont woman whose sister died after being incarcerated in Seneca County Jail in 2017 is suing Seneca County officials.
The lawsuit was filed in Seneca County Common Pleas Court this week on behalf of Michele Seaman, special administrator of the estate of Rachael Ann Peak, against Seneca County Board of Commissioners, Seneca County Sheriff Bill Eckelberry and Seneca County Jail corrections officers Barton, Branson, Brooks and Castanien.
The lawsuit accuses the defendants of failing to keep jail inmates safe, to incarcerate Peak in a facility that was not overcrowded, to attend adequately to her medical conditions and her medical and mental health needs, to timely recognize her emergency medical situation, to provide her appropriate medical intervention and to call 911 in a timely fashion.
According to the lawsuit, Peak was incarcerated by Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court Judge Mark Repp and placed in Seneca County Jail on Dec. 3, 2017, in connection with an outstanding warrant that was relative to a misdemeanor theft charge.
Her health rapidly deteriorated during her short period of incarceration, it states.
The lawsuit states Peak was found to be lethargic in her cell Dec. 9, 2017.
“Once showered and changed, she was placed back in her cell, where she was laid on a mat on the floor, as she was unable to hold herself in an upright position,” it states.
“She was left in her cell in this debilitated condition with no emergency medical treatment being provided or consults obtained.”
The lawsuit states Peak was found to be disoriented and incoherent early the following day. She finally was transported by EMS to a local hospital after delays in ordering emergency transport and was flown by Life Flight to a tertiary facility, it states.
Peak remained in the custody and control of Seneca County until her discharge to Mercy Health – Tiffin Hospital on Dec. 10, 2017, according to the lawsuit.
At the hospital, she was found to have altered mental status, which later was determined to be brain damage from infective endocarditis, which resulted in multi-system organ failure and untimely death April 29, 2018, the lawsuit states.
“The utter disregard for Rachael’s medical needs, while in Jail, was a proximate cause of her death,” it states.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections inspected the jail Dec. 4, 2017, while Peak was incarcerated, according to the lawsuit.
ODRC records included in the lawsuit show that at the time of the inspection, temporary beds were used to assist with overcrowding in the jail. Also, the jail did not meet the requirements for shower temperature readings and for having one operable toilet for every 12 occupants, records show.
“On the date of inspection several areas of the facility showed signs of disrepair, it was observed that light bulbs in many of the inmate living areas were burnt out which resulted in low light meter requirements, a bottom metal panel on a shower was pulled away from a wall, graffiti on many of the walls in housing/cell areas, urinals not operable, vent covers had debris covering proper ventilation, a drinking fountain was not operational, security tinting on windows removed, a hole in the drywall in an inmate living area,” the report states. “Jail administration was made aware of these areas of disrepair during the inspection.”
Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Steve Shuff is to preside over the case.