By John Frank, Times Staff Writer
Published Wednesday, January 28, 2009
BROOKSVILLE — The morning Edward Duritsky died, his sister came to visit him at the Hernando County Jail.
Duritsky, 53, barely made it to the telephone. He fell as she waited on the other end of a video conferencing system in the jail lobby.
For weeks prior, Duritsky had complained about his health. But after the fall, a jail guard did nothing to help. When a nurse came, she walked away indifferent.
An hour later, at Brooksville Regional Hospital, Duritsky was pronounced dead.
These new details, describing the events of Dec. 20, 2007, are alleged in a negligence lawsuit filed Tuesday against the private company that manages the jail.
Attorneys for Duritsky's family, Jackson Brownlee of Orlando and Jimmy Brown of Brooksville, assert that Corrections Corporation of America, jail medical director Karen Deloreto and an unnamed corrections officer provided "grossly inadequate and incompetent 'medical care' so as to be tantamount to no medical care at all," court documents state.
"If he had received proper medical attention right away, they might very well have saved his life," Brown said in an interview Wednesday.
The civil lawsuit, filed by Duritsky's son, Ricky Duritsky, seeks damages in excess of $15,000. It claims violations of the elder Duritsky's federal civil rights.
Jail warden Russell Washburn said Wednesday he couldn't comment on pending litigation.
The warden at the time of the incident, Don Stewart, told the Times in January 2008 that the family's claims of neglect were "inaccurate."
Hernando County Sheriff's Office death investigation reports also reflect that the jail staff took steps to help Duritsky and labeled the death natural. But Brown said a review of the surveillance camera in the jail's medical ward proves the reports are inaccurate.
"They weren't doing CPR; they weren't doing anything," Brown said. It shows "an absolute indifference to this man's life."
Duritsky began complaining about his health soon after he was jailed Aug. 22, 2007, on a charge of aggravated stalking after violating a domestic violence injunction. He was being held in lieu of $25,000 bail.
An inmate intake health appraisal noted his heart problems. But his condition appeared to worsen Oct. 3, when he complained about being sick and was refused medical attention, the lawsuit states.
A month later, he complained of shaking from severe pain. He was seen a day later and given Tylenol. On Nov. 21, he complained of a tremor and the next day weakness in his right side.
A neurologist, apparently unaffiliated with the jail, ordered a brain scan Nov. 30 and diagnosed him.
Duritsky's problems escalated. He was taken to Spring Hill Regional Hospital on Dec. 12 after his attorneys filed a motion in court, documents indicate. He was diagnosed with an increased heart rate and returned to jail, the lawsuit states.
A week later, and the day before he died, Duritsky's criminal attorney, Ashley Aulls, asked a judge for another medical examination.
But Duritsky died before a judge was assigned. The medical examiner named the cause of death as heart failure.
John Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6114.