- Associated Press - Saturday, April 18, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A Spokane County jury has award $8 million to the family of an inmate who died at the Airway Heights Corrections Center after a diabetic episode.

The award, announced late Friday, was twice what the family of Dale Stahl had sought, according to the Spokesman Review. (https://bit.ly/1IqhjPk )

The family sued the state Department of Corrections after he died in 2012. The lawsuit claimed guards ignored Stahl’s medical condition and kept him restrained after he suffered hypoglycemic shock.

Stahl, 57, was a “brittle diabetic,” someone whose Type 1 diabetes frequently caused large swings in his blood sugar level. The family’s lawyer, Nathan Roberts, said instead of calling 911, the officers treated it like a behavioral issue. They restrained him chest down on the floor with guards holding him down.

Corrections officials said in a statement after the verdict that they will confer with attorneys and discuss options about how to respond to the decision.

“It’s a tragic situation when an offender passes away in custody and our thoughts and concerns are with the Stahl family over their loss,” Assistant Secretary of Prisons Steve Sinclair said in the statement. “The DOC strives to provide a safe and healthy environment for offenders, including appropriate medical care.”

Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said a critical incident review was completed after Stahl’s death, but he was unaware of its conclusions or whether anyone was disciplined.

Stahl’s daughter, Brittany Haun, said the prison would not provide answers after her father’s death.

Stahl was incoherent and flailing his arms and legs during the episode. Six corrections officers got him under control and kept him in a prone position, Haun said.

Stahl went limp after 14 minutes that included the knees of officers pressing against his back. At that point officers called 911, but they continued to hold him on the floor and didn’t attempt to treat him, Haun said.

“In essence, these staff had been restraining a corpse,” Roberts wrote in court documents.

Stahl, who was handcuffed, did not have a pulse. Firefighters attempted CPR but couldn’t revive him.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death natural, caused by atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. Diabetes was listed as a contributing factor.

The determination was based on information given by the Department of Corrections, Roberts said.

“They weren’t honest with the medical examiner in terms of describing the manner of his death,” he said.

The staff at the prison was aware of Stahl’s diabetes, Roberts said. Stahl’s cellmate, who called for help, told officers he thought Stahl was having an episode of low blood sugar.

Stahl had been at the prison for six months after he pleaded guilty to a charge of vehicular manslaughter in Tacoma. He was celebrating his birthday with a friend in 2010 and crashed into a parked car on the way home. His friend died and Stahl pleaded guilty because he had alcohol in his system, Roberts said.

Haun said she feels like justice was done and the verdict has given her a sense of closure.


Information from: The Spokesman-Review, https://www.spokesman.com

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