Nebraska man who had his legs amputated shortly after being arrested to seek justice
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA — When Kevin Pittillo was taken to the Pottawattamie County Jail in July of 2018, he was delirious, he was not wearing a shirt or jeans, and he claimed that he was either a former KGB agent from Russia or a current member of the United States military. He made these claims while claiming that he was neither of these things.
His transgression was that he was a peace disruptor.
Eleven days later, when he was lying on the floor of his jail cell, naked and for the most part unresponsive, the jailers called for an ambulance and said that his condition had deteriorated further.
After diagnosing Pittillo with “deep ischemia,” surgeons in an Omaha hospital amputated both of his legs. This was done because clotting had restricted the flow of blood to his legs, which resulted in the ischemia. A surgeon testified that it appeared that one of the legs was lifeless.
When the Nebraska public guardian who was responsible for the care of the mentally ill 66-year-old heard about the horrific case, she filed a negligence lawsuit, claiming that Pittillo lost his legs as a result of a lack of appropriate medical attention in jail. She was assigned to care for the mentally troubled 66-year-old.
According to what the Examiner has discovered, the lawsuit prompted Pottawattamie County to strike a settlement on behalf of the county jail personnel in November for the amount of $4.5 million. It was also the reason why the supervising physician at the facility, Dr. Jon Thomas, agreed to settle out of court for a sum that was not made public.
Another defendant in the case, a psychiatrist who oversaw mental health care at the Pottawattamie County Jail, was found not negligent or liable for damages by a jury in this Iowa city on the border of Nebraska on Wednesday morning, after the jury had deliberated for approximately two hours. The verdict came shortly after the jury announced that they had reached their decision.
Damages might be $15 million-$30 million
Due to Pittillo’s loss of legs, his physical and mental pain and suffering, as well as the need for 24-hour care for the rest of his life, the plaintiff’s attorney estimated during closing arguments on Tuesday that damages in the case against the psychiatrist could extend to anywhere between $15 million and $30 million. This was due to the fact that the plaintiff would require care around the clock for the rest of his life.
Gary Dickey, a lawyer from Des Moines who handled the closed arguments on behalf of Pittillo, stated that “It’s a significant number because the harms were catastrophic,” which explains why the number is so high.
While this was going on, the attorneys for the psychiatrist, Dr. Ivan Delgado, stated that their client should not be held liable for the medical outcome because he was focused on his patient’s mental well-being and whether Pittillo was taking the medications he’d prescribed. This was a job that nurses were expected to monitor, not the psychiatrist, who visited the jail once a week.
Their end purpose is monetary gain. They are only interested in obtaining financial gain, according to one of Delgado’s attorneys, Andrew Efaw of Denver.
According to Michelle Chaffee, director of the Nebraska Office of Public Guardian and the person tasked with monitoring Pittillo’s well-being, the case is yet another illustration of how individuals who suffer from mental illnesses do not receive the attention and treatment that they are deserving of.
Chaffee described the situation as “very devastating.” “Every single one of these [systems for providing mental health care] is in such a terrible state.”
Pittillo, who is unable to move himself out of bed, currently resides in a facility in Omaha that is equipped to provide assistance to amputees like him. Although he testified earlier in the lengthy trial that lasted for six days, he did not show up for the closing arguments on Tuesday afternoon.
According to Chaffee, this was the first occasion the guardian’s office was required to initiate a lawsuit in order to obtain medical care for a client. She stated that the majority of the time, the office is pursuing justice in cases of financial exploitation or resolving medical mistreatment through complaints filed with the state licensing agency.
However, she stated that after becoming aware of the terrible result of the case, she decided it was time to pursue legal action.
The attorneys were in agreement that it was a tragic case when they presented their final arguments on Tuesday in the District Court of Pottawattamie County. However, they were divided on whether or not a jail psychiatrist should be held culpable for identifying a medical issue.
Failure to adhere to the “safety rule”
According to Dickey, one of Pittillo’s attorneys, the psychiatrist at the jail, Delgado, did not follow a normal “safety rule” that all psychiatrists are expected to follow, which is to move someone out of jail if they are too sick to be there. Dickey said this failure occurred.
When Pittillo initially arrived at the jail in July 2018, he was said to be behaving in a “strange” manner, and he refused to enter a holding cell, claiming instead, “I’ll be dead before morning. My family tree is well documented.
Concerned jailers placed him in a protective custody cell “due to psychotic concerns” and described him as “delusional” and suffering from “hallucinations.” He was also placed there “due to psychotic concerns.”
By the 30th of July, six days after he was locked up, Pittillo had not washed in days, smelled “extremely awful,” was confused, and was unable to stand on his own. Guards were required to give him a shower and help him back to his cell thereafter.
On August 2, the jail staff noted that Pittillo appeared to be “sick,” and they stated that he was growing worse as he lay on the floor of his cell naked and practically nonverbal. Pittillo had been there since July 31. Because of his excruciating groin rash, he had to be transported in a wheelchair in order to use the facility’s shower. After that, an ambulance was called, and Pittillo was ultimately transported to a hospital in Omaha.
Dickey blamed the jail psychiatrist, Delgado, for not checking nurses’ logs that indicated Pittillo was regularly refusing to take his medication and for failing to monitor his care after prescribing Seroquel, which is used to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Dickey also blamed Delgado for not checking nurses’ logs that indicated Pittillo was regularly refusing to take his medication.
After examining Pittillo on July 31, 2018, Delgado said, “Houston, there’s something wrong here,” which the plaintiff’s attorney cited as evidence that Delgado had admitted that Pittillo needed to be admitted to a mental hospital. The plaintiff’s attorney said that Delgado had said this in his own words.
Dickey stated that a decent psychiatrist would have conferred with a sheriff or warden and gotten the patient admitted to a hospital.
Care was taken by the psychiatrist
However, Efaw, a medical malpractice specialist who handled the closing arguments on behalf of Delgado, stated that there is no such thing as a “safety rule,” but rather that it is the psychiatrist’s obligation to follow a reasonable standard of care, which Delgado did, according to Efaw’s assessment.
Efaw referred to testimony given during the trial by an expert witness who, according to Efaw, stated that Pittillo had suffered from lifelong medical issues that contributed to the rapid onset of the blood clotting, such as heavy smoking and a family history of blood clots. This testimony was described as not credible by one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. a few days after Pittillo was placed behind bars.
Efaw further stated that the nurses in the correctional facility failed to alert the psychiatrists about Pittillo’s refusal to take his medicine for a full week. According to him, it is the responsibility of the nursing staff, not the physician, to monitor an inmate’s medication intake.
Efaw said this as he stood behind Delgado at the defense table and remarked, “Brutal honesty necessitates justice for this man. It also requires a finding of no liability.” My opinion is that this is not even remotely close to being a close case. He continued by saying, “There are times when horrible things happen, and no one is to blame for it.”
Tuesday evening around 6:30 p.m., the eight-person jury, consisting of six men and two women, exited the courthouse shortly after the conclusion of the closing arguments.
The jury, which had to find the psychiatrist responsible by a preponderance of the evidence, started deliberations on Wednesday morning at approximately nine in the morning and rendered a verdict at approximately eleven in the morning.