Jail Death Attorneys File $10 Million Wrongful Death Claim Against King County Jail

Jail death attorneys, Budge & Heipt, have filed a $10 million claim against the King County Jail in Seattle for the wrongful death of a pretrial detainee. The detainee, Nathan Zambryski, died at the jail in May 2015 from complications relating to alcohol withdrawal.

Budge & Heipt, the lawyers for the estate of Mr. Zambryski, filed the claim on January 6, 2016. The claim against the King County Jail is the first step towards a wrongful death lawsuit.

The death of Mr. Zambryski, like the deaths of so many from alcohol and drug withdrawal in American jails, is yet another example of an avoidable tragedy.  Millions of Americans are alcohol dependent, a disease that can result from long term use of alcohol. When a person’s brain is continually exposed to high levels of alcohol, a physical change in brain chemistry results. Over time, the brain becomes accustomed to operating properly only in the presence of alcohol. If alcohol is suddenly stopped, the brain cannot readjust its chemistry immediately. This can result in a variety of symptoms, leading up to and including death from alcohol withdrawal seizures or delirium tremens.

Individuals who are alcohol dependent tend to have an increased risk of contact with police. An arrest can lead to detention in a jail or holding facility and, therefore, a sudden and immediate cessation of alcohol consumption. In fact, inmates and detainees are the primary people at risk for death due to alcohol withdrawal since it is one of the only situations where a true alcoholic will be suddenly forced to go “cold turkey” without the ability to consume alcohol.

Alcohol withdrawal is highly treatable, and death almost never results when jail personnel take appropriate precautions. On the other hand, when jail personnel fail to recognize and respond to the risk of alcohol withdrawal, the dependent inmate or detainee can be at grave risk.  Jail personnel and law enforcement officers must be trained to recognize and respond to the grave risks posed to detained individuals who are addicted to alcohol, and they need to take appropriate responsive action when an alcohol dependent person is arrested and detained.

An appropriate intake screening by trained personnel is essential in order to identify new detainees at risk for withdrawal. If a risk is identified (e.g., the detainee indicates a concern of alcohol withdrawal or indicates that he or she has been consuming high levels of alcohol on a regular basis), jail personnel must further screen the person and then flag the individual for proper monitoring and treatment.

Mr. Zambrynski was arrested for alleged shoplifting and taken to the King County Jail in downtown Seattle. When he was admitted to the jail, he stated that he was concerned about alcohol withdrawal and indicated that he had been consuming large quantities of a high alcohol-content malt liquor. Yet, he was not flagged for alcohol withdrawal monitoring or treatment, no history or follow up was taken relevant to his risk, and he was provided with no care to minimize his significant risk of alcohol withdrawal seizures. His death approximately 24 hours later came at the peak time for risk of death due to alcohol withdrawal seizures.

The attorneys at Budge & Heipt have handled death cases relating to alcohol withdrawal in various states around the country, as well as death and serious injury cases relating to withdrawal in jail and prison from addictive prescription drugs (such as Xanax and other benzodiazepines).

If you are concerned that a loved one was injured or died due to complications relating to drug or alcohol withdrawal in a jail, prison or police holding facility, please contact Budge & Heipt for a free consultation at your earliest opportunity.

Budge & Heipt PLLC
705 2nd Ave #910
Seattle, WA 98104

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.