Settlement reached in death of Missouri man in jail after he was kept in restraint chair

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JOPLIN, Missouri — The mother of a man who died in a southwest Missouri jail after being strapped into a restraint chair for several hours has settled her lawsuit against Jasper County and other defendants.

Jane Brown of Joplin received $250,000 to end the lawsuit filed after the Dec. 18, 2012, death of her son, 43-year-old Richard Watson, while he was being held in the Jasper County jail, Attorney Brandon Potter said Tuesday. Thirteen current or former jail employees, a doctor and a nurse were also named in the lawsuit. Further details of the settlement were confidential, Potter said.

Watson, who had mental and physical health issues, died eight days after he was arrested for an alleged violation of a protection order obtained against him by his stepfather. He was found unresponsive and not breathing and efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Brown's lawsuit alleged Watson was left in an emergency restraint chair for at least 21 hours without proper food, water or medication. The chair's manufacturer advises that no one be left in the restraints for more than two hours, according to her lawsuit.

Brown said Tuesday her son told jail staff that he had high blood pressure, back pain, anxiety and depression and that he had been prescribed about a dozen medications. The jail staff also knew he had a history of alcohol abuse, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1xxEF1o ).

An autopsy report said Watson was "constantly thrashing" and "throwing himself against the restraints" while he was in the chair until he "seemed to relax and died." An autopsy found Watson died from heart difficulties caused by "strenuous exercise of agitation induced by alcohol withdrawal," and his death was ruled from natural causes.

"At no time was he combative," said Brown, who has seen video footage of her son in the chair. "He was going through withdrawal and seizures."

Her lawsuit also contended the jail's nurse and doctor did not check on Watson frequently enough and ignored a sharp drop in his blood pressure.

Sheriff Randy Kaiser, who was not sheriff at the time, said Tuesday that inmates occasionally require protracted restraint times. He also said jail staff is required to check on inmates every half-hour while they are in the chair. The last check happened about 19 minutes before Watson died, Kaiser said.


Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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