LARGO — The family of a Treasure Island man fatally beaten by a detainee in a jail transport van is suing the private security company that provides van drivers for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, according to a complaint filed in Pinellas County on Wednesday.
The wrongful death lawsuit stems from the night of July 6, when Thomas Morrow, 59, was put into protective custody under the state Marchman Act and placed inside a transport van driven by an officer employed by G4S Secure Solutions, the private company under contract with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
That same night, Leonard David Lanni, 37, was picked up on a charge of disorderly conduct in St. Pete Beach and put into the van with Morrow.
A few miles from the jail, Lanni began kicking Morrow, who had fallen from the bench, the Sheriff's Office said. After observing the beating on a monitor, the driver, Andrey Izrailov, quickly pulled into a parking lot and asked two deputies there to restrain Lanni.
Morrow remained bedridden and unable to walk or talk until his death Sept. 12. Lanni now faces a second-degree murder charge.
"It never should have got to that point," said St. Petersburg attorney Michael Babboni, who is representing Morrow's family. "You're talking about a wife that has lost a husband. You're talking about a daughter that has lost a father."
The Sheriff's Office contract states that G4S employees will safely transport detainees. Babboni's 12-page complaint, which also names Izrailov as a defendant, claims that G4S and Izrailov failed at that duty because Morrow and Lanni, although shackled and handcuffed, were not secured to the van.
"You cannot safely transport in the back of the van if they are not secured inside the van and separated from each other," Babboni said.
The complaint also claims that Izrailov was not closely observing the live monitor below the van's rearview mirror that showed the passenger compartment.
"This is not one kick, two kicks, three kicks, four," Babboni said. "This is not something that happened quickly. This guy was beaten to death."
G4S declined to comment on the lawsuit because of "pending litigation," but a spokeswoman said the company "extends its sympathy to the family of Mr. Morrow."
Morrow's family seeks damages of more than $15,000 to cover several expenses, including Morrow's medical bills and funeral services.