Eisenberg, Rothweiler, Winkler, Eisenberg & Jeck files lawsuit regarding client’s son’s death by suicide at Montgomery County Correctional Facility

Nancy Winkler and Todd Schoenhaus recently filed a lawsuit against Montgomery County, Pa., PrimeCare Medical (the medical care provider for the Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF)), and a number of Montgomery County Prison guards and medical staff regarding the tragic death of Elliot Glantz. Elliot died on September 29, 2020, soon after turning 30, after he hung himself from a bedsheet in his MCCF cell.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Elliot’s mother, Elliot had a history of mental health issues and treatment that prison guards and medical staff were aware of, including his suffering from bipolar depression and ADHD, an alcohol dependency, and a number of suicide attempts. The lawsuit alleges a number of missteps on the part of Montgomery County Prison guards and medical staff that show they did not take Elliot’s mental health issues seriously, which contributed to him ultimately taking his own life—a preventable tragedy.

For example, despite PrimeCare Medical having Elliot’s medical records because it provided healthcare services in another prison Elliot served time in, PrimeCare blindly accepted Elliot’s erroneous denials about his mental health history during his intake meeting. Despite Elliot’s mental health history and his not complying with his detoxification medications upon being admitted to MCCF, he was not seen by the psychologist responsible for coordinating and implementing MCCF’s mental health program for five days. When she finally did examine Elliot, she did not recommend any medications. She did, however, schedule a follow-up appointment for 12 days later. That appointment was later inexplicably canceled by MCCF or PrimeCare.

On the day of Elliot’s death, roughly an hour before he was declared dead, a prison guard allegedly had observed Elliot in his bed and thought he appeared to be asleep and in no form of distress. Ten minutes later, another prison guard toured the pod where Elliot was assigned and made no mention of any concerns about Elliot. But thirty-eight minutes later, two inmates alerted a prison guard that something was wrong with Elliot. After two guards then spotted Elliot hanging from a bedsheet tied around his neck and attached to the top of his bed frame, and cut him down, he was declared dead. The coroner believed Elliot had already been dead for some time. Had that first prison guard looked more closely, Elliot might still be alive today.

Unfortunately, Elliot’s suicide was not an isolated incident. According to public statistics, there were 25 suicides at MCCF from 2007 through 2016. There were two more suicides by hanging in 2017, one more in 2018 (on the same day as another death), and at least one more in 2019. Additionally, reports of attempted suicides increased exponentially (from 8 to 45) between 2012 and 2017. And, at least three recent lawsuits were filed against MCCF and PrimeCare in connection with the deaths of three prisoners as a result of suicide or severe medical episodes they suffered while incarcerated at MCCF.

The lawsuit alleges Montgomery County, PrimeCare Medical, and Montgomery County Prison guards and medical staff violated Elliot’s civil rights by showing a deliberate and reckless indifference to his serious mental health needs and violating his Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit also alleges PrimeCare Medical and its medical staff were negligent by not complying with generally accepted medical and mental health treatment standards of care when they treated Elliot.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages for Elliot’s parents and his estate, as well as punitive damages to punish Montgomery County, PrimeCare Medical, and MCCF guards and medical staff and to deter future deliberate indifference toward other inmates.

“As we allege in the complaint, Montgomery County and PrimeCare have failed to follow well-established suicide prevention standards and guidelines that could have saved Elliot’s life,” said Nancy. “Until the County and PrimeCare do so, we fear more suicides will occur on their watch.”

“Elliot’s death is the latest indication that there appears to be a mental health crisis at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility that county officials and PrimeCare Medical are either unwilling or unable to solve,” said Todd.