Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of The Estate of a Deceased Detainee Who Died in The Erie County Holding Center Due to Lack of Adequate Medical Attention

Today, lawyers from Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Sean Riordan.

Riordan died on his 30th birthday due to lack of adequate medical attention, care, and treatment while he was in the care and custody of Erie County, the Sheriff, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department. The lawsuit asserts that the County and Sherriff and others violated the constitutional rights of Riordan, including his rights to adequate medical care and freedom from the unlawful use of force by government agents, and due process of law.

Melissa Wischerath, one of the attorneys on the case, points out that, “By depriving people in its custody of adequate medical care, Erie County and the Sherriff have become the judge, jury and executioner for detainees in its custody. Sean Riordan was charged with a minor traffic violation and did not deserve to be sentenced to death by medical neglect.”

On June 5, 2022, after suffering for days in plain view of his jailers, Sean Riordan went into cardiac arrest somewhere in the jail. The lawsuit claims that the cardiac arrest was brought on by lack of adequate medical attention, care, and treatment and/or unlawful force.

An ambulance was called to the holding center where, after being told to wait what ended up being 9 minutes to be led to him, medics found Sean Riordan laying unresponsive on a mattress on the floor of the health center. His body was cold to the touch, his skin was mottled and blue. The medics went to extraordinary means to save him, placed him on a stretcher, intubated him, and rushed him to the emergency room.

Sean never recovered. He was declared brain dead days later and placed on life support for several days. Tragically, nine days after he was found unresponsive and cold to the touch in the holding center, Sean Riordan was taken off life support. The date was June 14, 2022, his 30th birthday.

Wischerath also added, “Sean Riordan has joined the growing list of 32 people who have died in the care and custody of Erie County, the Sheriff, and the Erie County Sheriff’s Department, while in its jails since 2005.”

Wischerath pointed out that “under former Sheriff Timothy B. Howard, and now current Sheriff John C. Garcia, a detainee in the Holding Center in downtown Buffalo or the Erie County Correctional Facility in Alden died, on average, every six months. Defendants have been aware of the constitutionally and legally inadequate care and conditions in their jail for years.”

The lawsuit, filed in the New York State Supreme Court, also claims that the County and Sheriff violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), because defendants refused to and/or failed to make a reasonable accommodation to Sean Riordan, by providing him with treatment and medication for opioid and/or alcohol use disorders, thereby discriminating against him on the basis of disability, even though accommodation would in no way alter the nature of the healthcare program.

The lawsuit further claims that defendants do not deny medically necessary, physician-prescribed medications to other detainees with serious, chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Wischerath stated, “We are supposed to trust jail systems to keep people alive and safe, so they can have their day in Court while awaiting a trial. The death rate at the Erie County Holding Center tells us that the County and Sheriff are failing to provide humane conditions for people in custody, and it’s killing them. We are asking the Court to appoint experts to investigate and identify appropriate solutions to the chronic and unconstitutional practices at the ECHC, and to order implementation of intensive education and training of their staff to ensure adequate medical care to all detainees in its custody.”

Click here to read the full complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of the Estate of Sean Riordan.

Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP has been serving all the legal needs of the Western New York community for over 50 years.  With 50 attorneys, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP is one of Buffalo’s largest law firms. The firm serves individuals, organizations, and corporations in the areas of Accidents & Personal Injury, Business & Corporate Law, Commercial Litigation, Criminal Defense Trials & Appeals, Estate Planning & Administration, Intellectual Property, Labor & Employment Law, Matrimonial & Family Law, Medical Malpractice, Professional Licensing Defense, Real Estate, Social Security Disability, Sports & Entertainment Law, Workers’ Compensation, and Zoning & Land Use. In addition to its headquarters in Buffalo, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP maintains satellite offices in Amherst and Cheektowaga, New York; and a regional office in Los Angeles, CA.