By: Teresa Auch Schultz, Post-Tribune: April 1st, 2015
A federal lawsuit filed Thursday claims officials at the Lake County Jail never took an inmate to see a judge in the 16 days he was there and let him die from dehydration.
Dorothy Hobson of Schererville filled the lawsuit on behalf of her son, Kenneth Hobson, who she says died in the jail on Nov. 2.
Sheriff Roy Dominguez, who was named in the suit, said he had no comment and that he had not seen the lawsuit. John Kopack, attorney for the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the jail, said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.
According to the suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, Kenneth Hobson was arrested Oct.17, 2009, by Schererville police on charges of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. Police planned on releasing him to his mother, but Hobson, who had delusions and phobias, refused to fill out the paperwork, according to the lawsuit.
Police then decided to send him to the county jail. Several court dates were set, according to the lawsuit, but the jail never brought him to any of them.
Dorothy Hobson tried to contact him and told the jail about some of his mental health problems, including a fear of drinking water unless it came from a bottle.
She finally got a call on Nov. 2 that she might be allowed to post bond for her son. Another call came later that day, but this time to tell her he was in the hospital. He was dead when she arrived, the suit says.
The lawsuit claims that high levels of potassium, chloride and sodium were found in his body, all of which are signs of dehydration.
A spokesman for the Lake County Coroner’s Office was not available to confirm the details surrounding Hobson’s death or what caused his death. Lake County court records show he was charged on Oct 19, 2009, with resisting law enforcement.
Two other notes, one on Oct. 20 and one on Oct. 27, show he refused to be fingerprinted and then refused to leave his cell. The case was discharged in March because he had died, records state.
Samantha Liskow, an attorney with Loevy & Loevy representing Dorothy Hobson, said the jail had a responsibility to bring him before a judge, even if he was disorderly.
“I’m sure the Lake County Jail is not the first judge to be dealing with a delusional or uncooperative … inmate,” Liskow said.
She said her firm’s research and talks with doctors led to the conclusion of dehydration as playing a role in Kenneth Hobson’s death. Signs of dehydration would have been obvious well before he died, so that jail officials should have taken him to get help, the lawsuit says.
“This was a completely avoidable and therefore completely tragic death,” she said.
The lawsuit also sues MedStaff Inc. and Edgewater Systems for Balanced Living, which offer physical and mental health services, respectively, to the jail, and employees with all three groups.
Lake County finalized a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice in August. The settlement addresses DOJ concerns following a federal investigation into substandard conditions at the jail. As part of the settlement, Lake County has worked to improve medical care and record keeping at the jail and is also replacing inmates’ showers.