Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ACLU of Georgia, Sutherland, and Attorney Brian Spears File Lawsuit on Behalf of the Widow of Roberto Medina-Martinez

Roberto Medina-Martinez Died at Stewart Detention Center Due to Alleged Negligence of Medical Staff

March 27, 2012

Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia, (404) 574-0851;
Brian Spears, (404) 872-7086;

ATLANTA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Sutherland, and Attorney Brian Spears filed a lawsuit today in US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on behalf of Sara Hernandez-Gonzalez, the widow of Roberto Medina-Martinez against the US Government for its negligence which led to the death of Mr. Medina.  Mr. Medina was a 39 year-old man from Mexico who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the Stewart Detention Center.  Mr. Medina died while in ICE custody at St. Francis Hospital in Columbus, Georgia on March 11, 2009, from acute myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that is usually caused by a viral infection and is often treatable.

“The records obtained by the ACLU show that Roberto Medina-Martinez was the victim of systemic negligence on the part of the medical staff at the Stewart Detention Center resulting in his unnecessary death,” said Azadeh Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project Director with the ACLU of Georgia. 

The Government’s negligence included the staff’s failure to have medical examinations signed by a physician in violation of Department of Homeland Security’s Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS) policy and the failure to note Mr. Medina’s chest x-ray as abnormal.  The Government’s negligence also included the pervasive failure on the part of the lead physician to review health records, the proper review of which combined with appropriate follow-up could have prevented Mr. Medina’s death. 

This failure was not an aberration.  An investigation conducted following Mr. Medina’s death revealed that the physician was systematically failing to conduct the required review of the medical examination information, thereby jeopardizing the health of the entire detention center population. 

“With this lawsuit, we take the next step to seek justice for the widow and family of Roberto Medina-Martinez,” said Attorney Brian Spears.   “We contend that Mr. Medina’s death could have been prevented and that he died as a result of systematic neglect by certain medical professionals at the Stewart Detention Center.”

The lawsuit against the US Government charges that negligent acts and omissions of the Government or its agents caused the death of Mr. Medina and asks the court to award damages to Mr. Medina’s widow for his wrongful death.

Attorneys on the case include J. Dean Marshall and Benjamin Morgan of Sutherland; Chara Fisher Jackson and Shahshahani of the ACLU of Georgia; and Spears.

The actual complaint can be viewed here.