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Suit alleges Pinellas County sheriff, jail negligent in case of inmate who hanged himself

CLEARWATER — The son of a man who hanged himself in the Pinellas County Jail has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats and two jail staffers, alleging they didn't properly monitor the inmate who had a history of suicide attempts.

Pinellas Park resident Richard John Troyanos, who was 44, used an elastic waistband from his jail uniform to hang himself in his cell on Nov. 9, 2006.

The suit, filed in Pinellas County on Oct. 20, alleges that Coats was negligent in his duty to "train, supervise, control, monitor and otherwise ensure" that jail staffers did not violate Troyanos' rights to adequate medical and psychological care.

The suit against Coats, Dr. Richard Miller and nurse Raphaelita Simon-Robinson seeks damages in excess of $100,000.

The Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the suit.

Two days before Troyanos died, he was arrested on a felony domestic battery charge after an argument with his girlfriend over prescription medications. At the time, Troyanos was living at an apartment sponsored by an outpatient mental health facility in Pinellas Park.

Troyanos was being treated for several mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis, according to court documents. He had a history of suicide attempts and had been detained at least six times under the state's Baker Act.

When Troyanos was booked, an intake specialist noted self-inflicted scars on his wrists, court documents show. The suit alleges that Simon-Robinson failed to properly screen Troyanos and placed him on "close observation status instead of suicide risk." The latter would have called for constant monitoring, as opposed to checks at 15-minute intervals.

Miller, who later examined Troyanos, also failed to properly assess the inmate's intention to harm himself, the suit says.

The medical staffers did not provide Troyanos with his medications, Jim Hannon, the attorney representing Richard Troyanos Jr. of Staten Island, N.Y., said.

In September, a federal judge rejected the notion that the elder Troyanos' civil rights had been violated and declined jurisdiction over the negligence and medical malpractice claims in a similar suit filed in federal court. Another attorney, Brett Powell, has filed an appeal in that case.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Suit alleges Pinellas County sheriff, jail negligent in case of inmate who hanged himself 10/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 28, 2009 9:39pm]
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