Family files lawsuit against jail, county over woman’s death

Haile Neil 

The family of the women that dead while incarcerated at the Colusa County Jail in April from an apparent suicide attempt has filed a wrongful death lawsuit claiming negligence and that the facility failed to provide the deceased with access to proper medical care while in custody.

“Haile Neil was denied necessary mental health treatment and care by jail staff ... while incarcerated at the Colusa County Jail, resulting in her death,” read court documents.

The lawsuit was filed by Sacramento based attorney Mark Merin on behalf of the Estate of Haile Neil and her parents, Tara Kuck and Michael Neil, in the U.S. District Court, in the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento on Dec. 5. 

Defendants in the case include the Colusa County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Joe Garofalo, the county of Colusa and California Forensic Medical Group, Inc.

Haile Neil was arrested in February by California Highway Patrol after being pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence. Neil was reported to have been traveling at speeds of over 100 miles per hour with her hazard lights flashing when the responding CHP unit pulled her over near Arbuckle.

Neil became aggressive while taking a field sobriety test and a struggle between her and the CHP officer ensued. During the struggle, Neil pulled out a concealed dagger and stabbed the officer in the back. The officer involved sustained non-life threatening injuries.

Neil was held at the Colusa County Jail on suspicion of multiple felony charges, including attempted murder, stemming from this incident. 

On the morning of April 15, Neil was found unresponsive in her cell as a result of an attempted suicide by hanging, as reported by officials from the Colusa County Jail. Neil was transported to Enloe Medical Center in Chico where she was pronounced braindead upon arrival. She was later pronounced dead after being taken off life support. 

Court documents state that Neil was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline schizophrenia and had been hospitalized for mental health issues numerous times since she was 13-years-old.

“For the past four years, Haile Neil was doing well on medication and was working,” read a court document. “However, in early February 2019 (Neil) relapsed when she was off her medication.”  

Merin said that at the time of Neil’s incarceration, several family members had advised staff at the Colusa County Jail of her mental health history as well as her needs for medication.

Court documents also state that Kuck informed jail officials that Neil had a history of suicide attempts.

“Jail officials knew that she was seriously mentally ill,” said Merin. “Her family made multiple attempts to talk to officials about her mental illness and even tried to give them her medications, which they did not take.” 

The lawsuit is seeking compensable and punitive damages but Merin said Neil’s family would ultimately like to see responsibility assigned for this incident and identify the lapses in procedures. 

“The main thing we would like is that this should never happen to anyone else,” said Merin. 

Marcos Kropf, county council for the County of Colusa, said the county is disappointed that Neil’s family has chosen to file a lawsuit. 

“The county is committed to ensuring the safety, security, and welfare of its prisoners and there has not been a suicide in our jail in at least the last 25 years,” said Kropf. “We do not believe this lawsuit has any merit whatsoever. Accordingly, we have retained counsel to defend us in this matter.”

Defendants named in this case were served on Dec. 6 have until Dec. 27 to respond to the allegations identified in the lawsuit.

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