Jail Deaths in Washington State: Finding the Right Attorneys

Finding Experienced Attorneys for a Washington State Jail Death Case

When a person wrongfully dies in jail, family members and loved ones need the right kind of lawyer. Based in Seattle, the attorneys at Budge & Heipt are nationally-distinguished in the area of jail death litigation. When it comes to lawsuits arising out of the death of someone in jail, few attorneys have the depth and breathe of experience of Ed Budge and Erik Heipt. Unlike many attorneys, we do not have a general litigation practice. Rather, we focus almost exclusively on civil rights cases involving in-custody deaths. We have successfully sued for wrongful deaths that have occurred in county, state and federal correctional facilities as well as against private companies that contract with government entities. We have achieved numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements for victims of civil rights violations and other gross misconduct—in state and federal court. We have obtained seven-figure results arising from deaths occurring in the Washington State prison system and in county jails located in Washington. We have sued Washington counties and cities, as well as the state itself and companies providing correctional healthcare to Washington counties under contract with municipal jails in Washington. Since the firm was founded, the Seattle attorneys at Budge & Heipt have obtained more than $120 million dollars in verdicts and settlements—results that have been published in the Seattle Times and other regional and national outlets. When it comes to seeking justice for victims of serious civil rights violations by jails, few attorneys are as experienced or skilled navigating the legal system as the Seattle-based lawyers at Budge & Heipt.

Why is Jail Death Litigation Unique?

Litigating a case involving the death of someone in jail is an entirely different kind of litigation than most people realize. The laws governing these cases are different than the laws governing many other forms of litigation, and an attorney must be prepared to consider many factors. Who should be appointed to sue? Where should suit be filed, and against whom should suit be filed? What kinds of legal claims should be asserted? What kind of proof will be required to prevail? And how can necessary evidence be gathered and presented as proof that the jail and/or its staff are liable for the inmate’s death? Jail death cases are, in many ways, completely unique from other forms of litigation. The lawyers at Budge & Heipt have handled these cases repeatedly. We have lectured to other lawyers on these subjects, written on these subjects, and devoted our practice to the representation of people who have lost loved ones in correctional institutions. Excellent and experienced attorneys will often turn to our firm for association and advice on these cases because the laws and standards governing them require experienced counsel.

Jail Deaths in Washington State: Finding the Right Attorneys

Experience Matters

When our attorneys consider a new case in Washington State that occurs in a county jail or state prison, one of our primary considerations will involve whether to assert state law causes of action under the Revised Code of Washington or under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of constitutional rights. Sometimes we will assert only state law claims. At other times, we will assert only federal law claims. And sometimes we will assert both.

Filing a federal cause of action can sometimes help us circumvent limitations that might exist under state law. The Revised Code of Washington contains unusual limits on whether wrongful death and survival claims can be fully pursued on behalf of surviving family members—even if the death occurs in jail or as the result of police brutality. These limitations involve, among other things, considerations about who the surviving family members are. If the person who has died has not been survived by certain categories of family members, it may be necessary to rely on federal law—which is not necessarily constrained by the same limitations found in the RCW. Federal law offers other advantages as well, including the possibility of punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. Other considerations involve the venue—would we be prefer that our case be heard in one of the superior courts for the State of Washington, or would we rather that our case be heard in one of our region’s federal courts (e.g., the Western District of Washington at Seattle or Tacoma, or the Eastern District of Washington based in Spokane)? Does the identity of the defendants affect our ability to pursue claims under the RCW or federal law? And what other considerations must be factored into the decision?

Every case involves a unique analysis. When it comes to civil rights violations in Washington state, we have lectured and written on the interplay between the federal and the state laws and we have successfully pursued both kinds of claims—sometimes separately and sometimes together. And we give due consideration to all relevant factors.

If a loved one has died due to police brutality or as the result of negligence or other misconduct in jail, contact the lawyers at Budge & Heipt for a free consultation. There is no cost or obligation to do so.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of serious injury and/or death at the hands of police or in jail or prison, tell us about your case.