Off Beat: Time to hold 'em, or fold 'em?
When it comes to lawsuits, sometimes you know when to hold 'em, and sometimes you know when to fold 'em.
For Yuba and Sutter counties, it may be time to fold.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed last year in federal court by the surviving family members of Rodney Bock, who committed suicide in the Sutter County Jail in 2010.
Bock's death culminated his Kafkaesque interaction with Sutter-Yuba Mental Health Services and the jail.
The counties, who are the major defendants in the case, tried to get the whole thing thrown out.
In a 33-page opinion in late August, US District Judge Morrison England Jr., assessing the case at still an early stage, issued a stinging denunciation of how Bock was mishandled.
"Plaintiffs have alleged facts sufficient to demonstrate that defendants' negligence caused (Bock's) death," the judge wrote.
The judge refused to throw out the family's claim for punitive damages because the defendants' actions "shock the conscience."
Bock, a farmer, began experiencing mental health issues in 2009. He was treated at Sutter-Yuba Mental Health Services, where he was diagnosed as "psychotic, delusional and grandiose," the judge wrote.
In January 2010, Bock was arrested in a Yuba City restaurant. Charges were filed and, a few months later, when Bock missed a court date because he drove to Idaho, a judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Bock wound up back at Mental Health Services in April. He was placed on a 72-hour hold. Hours after the hold was imposed, a Mental Health Services staffer discharged Bock and transferred him to the jail, where the arrest warrant was waiting.
Another psychiatrist evaluated Bock and told a Sutter County judge that Bock needed to be treated at Napa State Hospital. Inexplicably, Bock was never sent to Napa.
"By April 24, (Bock) was unstable and unkempt, was talking to himself and to inanimate objects and was refusing his medication. According to plaintiffs, no further evaluation of (Bock) was conducted, however, nor was any further treatment undertaken."
Bock committed suicide by hanging on April 29, "banging his head against the wall in a very violent manner," the judge noted.
Jailers "purportedly failed to timely respond or provide life-saving intervention or treatment to (Bock)," the judge wrote.
The lawsuit provides "adequate facts demonstrating that defendants' conduct meets the requisite standard to establish a substantive due process violation," the judge wrote.