The wrongful death attorneys at Budge & Heipt have successfully prosecuted cases involving the excessive use of force causing serious injuries or wrongful death in-custody. When a loved one dies in custody in jail or prison, officials may offer family members vague and unsatisfying answers about how and why the loved one died. Sometimes such deaths are attributed to causes such as “excited delirium,” pre-existing medical conditions, or other reasons that make little sense. Without the tenacity of skilled attorneys with the experience to know what to look for, family members are often kept uniformed about the true facts and circumstances leading to a loved one’s in-custody death. The attorneys at Budge & Heipt demand answers and pursue justice for family members when the evidence strongly suggests that a jail death was wrongful and avoidable.


Just as police officers sometimes use too much force, so too do corrections officers. Occasionally, corrections officers will overreact to the point that a jail or prison inmate can be suffocated by improperly-trained or overzealous guards. At Budge & Heipt, our lawyers will carefully evaluate cases that suggest jail guards may have caused a jail inmate to asphyxiate or suffocate.

We have handled cases that involve hog-ties, spit hoods, and officers applying undue pressure to a person’s upper back or neck—thereby impairing breathing. Officers must be trained on the constitutional limits of what they can and cannot do—and when a person’s airway is impeded or where an inmate shows signs of being unable to breathe, officers must be trained to respond appropriately. Too often, guards and jail officers continue to apply force to the point that a person will actually suffocate or asphyxiate from lack of air.

Too much force in jail or prison can support a constitutional claim and a lawsuit for civil damages. An experienced attorney can evaluate the legal standards associated with such claims—standards which can depend, for example, on whether the inmate was being held in jail as an unconvicted “pretrial detainee” or a convicted prisoner. The attorneys at Budge & Heipt are well-versed in the constitutional standards surrounding force used by jail guards and corrections officers and regularly update their legal research with due consideration to the jurisdiction where the events took place.

The modern trend towards privatization of jails has resulted in certain companies actually operating and running jails under contract with counties, cities, and other municipalities. The lawyers at Budge & Heipt are experienced suing private companies that run correctional facilities. These companies are sometimes charged with running the entire operation, including the security side and the medical side, and privately employ jail guards, correctional nurses, and other staff. Although private, these corrections companies can, in appropriate circumstances, be sued as government actors for constitutional violations against inmates. When employees of a privately-run jail cause serious injury or death to a person—whether from excessive force or medical neglect—an experienced attorney can evaluate who to sue, how to sue, when to sue, and what to sue for.

At Budge & Heipt, we believe strongly in the rights of inmates to be free from excessive force, deliberate indifference, and other forms of abuse—particularly where great harm or death results. We work hard to hold these companies, entities, and individuals civilly responsible when the facts suggest wrongdoing. We engage in extensive investigation and discovery: demanding documentation from private corrections companies and public jails alike, deposing involved officers and others, and amassing the proof needed for a successful case. We screen every jail death case carefully, but when we take a case, we give it our all. When appropriate, we explore whether a company’s profit-making motive leads to neglect in failing to train jail personnel or denying care to inmates who need it.

Jails and the private companies that run them work hard to defend themselves, and we believe that victims of jail abuse must have strong advocates. Our success is directly related to the hard work we do and our passion for civil rights justice for people who have been victims of abuse or neglect during their incarceration.

If you or your loved one was a victim of excessive force in jail or prison, causing suffocation or asphyxiation that resulted in serious injury or wrongful death, please contact our office to discuss your case. There is absolutely 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.