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County settles suit with family of dead inmate

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The family of a man who died after being held at the Johnson County jail will be paid $750,000 as a settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against the county.

The county is responsible for paying $100,000 of that amount to the family of Darian Mack, who died April 25, 2011, with the rest being paid for by the county’s liability insurance policy, attorney Bill Barrett said.

Mack, who was 37, was an inmate at the Johnson County jail where he began sweating, shaking, vomiting and falling. He was taken to an Indianapolis hospital and died shortly after arriving. An autopsy determined the cause of a death was a ruptured spleen caused by some sort of trauma.

The county reached a settlement in December, and the $100,000 that was paid is to cover a deductible in the county’s liability insurance, Barrett said. The county does not admit to any liability in the case, according to the settlement agreement.

According to the settlement, Mack’s mother and her attorney will be paid about $290,000 within seven days of the county being dismissed as defendants in the case. The remaining $460,000 will be paid to Mack’s daughter, who is younger than 18, in payments starting in 2018 and continuing for the rest of her life.

“It is our hope that it will help her out quite a bit. With regards to the settlement, this is something the family thought was in their best interest and in the daughter’s best interest and the right time and the right amount to do that,” said John Young, the attorney representing Mack’s estate.

The periodic payments may be funded by the county’s insurer, Travelers Indemnity Co., through an annuity, the agreement states. The commissioners approved the settlement on Dec. 16. Barrett declined to comment on why the county chose to settle the case instead of going to trial.

Mack was brought to the jail on April 21, 2011, after being arrested in Bloomington on a Johnson County warrant for a probation violation. He spent three days in the jail before he started showing symptoms of an illness, including sweating, shaking and vomiting. Mack was put in an isolation cell where jailers could monitor him at all hours, but he began banging his head against the metal bed frame and was moved to a padded cell where he couldn’t injure himself.

A jailer called for an ambulance after watching Mack fall on his face, getting up and falling again. He was taken to Johnson Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where he died about 30 minutes after arriving.

An autopsy determined he had died from a ruptured spleen caused by some sort of blunt force impact. Marion County officials investigating the death disagreed on whether Mack suffered an injury to his abdomen before arriving at the jail or if it occurred during a fall at the jail that was caught on security videos. The sheriff’s office reviewed security footage from the jail but didn’t find anything that showed he was hurt by someone else in the jail or by an accident before he was put into isolation.

The $100,000 paid by the county was not paid in one chunk but was made in smaller payments throughout the year as attorneys worked on the case, Barrett said. The $100,000 is the amount the county is responsible for paying for legal services and any settlement as part of its liability policy, he said. The commissioners have $700,000 budgeted this year to pay for liability and casualty insurance, which pays for annual premiums as well as any expenses arising from claims.

The county will not have to pay any more in the case, since the settlement covers all departments including the county commissioners, the sheriff and the jail, which were listed as separate defendants in the case, Barrett said.

County officials are providing information to attorneys representing Mack’s estate and Dr. Gerald Mader of Johnson Memorial Hospital, who also was sued in the case and has not settled, Barrett said.

Mack’s family filed the wrongful death lawsuit in February 2012, suing Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox and other defendants.

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