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Lawsuit filed by family of Adams County inmate who died of dehydration and opiate withdrawal

Posted: 4:34 PM, Jun 23, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-23 21:00:44-04

A federal lawsuit has been filed against Adams County and a contract medical business accusing jailers and nurses of failing to provide intravenous fluids to save the life of a jail inmate suffering dehydration and other symptoms of opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawal.

The civil lawsuit filed by Denver attorneys David Lane, Darold Killmer and Andy McNulty on behalf of the estate of Tyler Tabor names Adams County, Corizon Health, Inc., Sheriff Michael McIntosh and eight jail deputies and health workers as defendants.

The plaintiffs, who include Tabor’s parents, Ray Tabor and Michelle McLean; Tabor’s wife, Bridget Tabor; and Tabor’s 6-year-old son, D.T.; seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

While Tyler Tabor was being booked into the Adams County Detention Facility on two misdemeanor arrest warrants May 14, 2015, he told a nurse that he was addicted to opiates and had used them the day before and was taking prescribed medicine Xanax, a benzodiazepine. His withdrawal symptoms began immediately, the lawsuit says.

A deputy found him lying on his cell floor at 5:25 a.m., after Tabor had vomited on the floor. He had a gray color to him and was struggling to breathe, the lawsuit says. The deputy kicked him a few times, the lawsuit says. Tabor only moaned, it says. Other deputies and supervisors were called. They shined a flashlight into his eyes, but Tabor didn’t respond. It took another 19 minutes before a nurse used a defibrillator on him, according to our partners at The Denver Post

Tabor died later that morning, after his family says he suffered through three days of withdrawal symptoms without proper medical care inside the jail.

Denver7 spoke with the Tabor family who said they filed the lawsuit to get justice for their son. 

"We thought he would be safe in the jail," said his father, Ray Tabor.

Ray said they could have easily paid the $300 bond to get their son out of jail, but they believed the jail was a safe place for him to kick his opioid addiction after their son came to them asking for help.

"I had told him, 'let's get you, you have this little silly warrant let's go to jail get that done and then you can move on,' but he said, 'mom I have to detox before I turn myself in because if not I'm going to die in jail,'" said his mother, Michele Mclean. "He knew."

His family said Tabor was a loving husband and father who was struggling with addiction.

"His heart was so big," said Mclean. "He was struggling, and they just overlook it."   

"You don't have to be a doctor to just look at that video and say this kid was near death," said the family's attorney, David Lane.

The lawsuit states Tabor made nurses aware of his addiction and begged for an IV, but was told IV's were only given when it was "absolutely necessary."

"It was a $20 IV... is all they had to give my son, twenty dollars and they didn't do it," said Ray.

The family believes his death was all about profit, and want to see the system changed.

"It's an epidemic and it's growing, these jails have to be held accountable to make some changes -- period," said Ray. "They can't determine who lives and dies."

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