Family files wrongful death lawsuit over inmate death

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

BRIGHTON, Colo. -- The autopsy report for Tyler Tabor might say he died from natural causes because of dehydration, but his family says there was nothing natural about the way he died in custody on May 17, 2015.

The parents of the 25-year-old have filed a federal lawsuit against the Adams County Sheriff's Office, eight jail employees and Corizon Health, the private contractor that provides medical services at the Adams County Detention Center.

“This to me is criminal negligent homicide,” said David Lane, the attorney representing Tabor's parents, Ray Tabor and Michele McLean.

The lawsuit claims Tabor should have never died three days after he was booked for misdemeanor warrants. Tabor told jail staff he was going through heroin withdrawal so he was placed on the jail’s medical wing.

Video taken of Tabor inside his jail cell shows him throwing up repeatedly, unable to keep liquids down.

Lane said it was a clear symptom of severe dehydration. An investigation by Adams County District Attorney Dave Young found no “criminal negligence” by jail staff even though the report said a nurse admitted that Tabor asked for an IV treatment the night before he died but, “she told him they try not to use IV’s unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“The reason they didn't give him an IV is because it cost money. They would rather take their chances, roll the dice with an inmate`s life because after all he's only an inmate, then spend 20 bucks on an IV," Lane said.

“I'm just blown away by that. He knew what he needed," Ray Tabor said. "For them to deny it, it's just absurd. It just blows me away. A $20 IV would've saved my son's life. Now they're spending thousands on lawyers to defend themselves."

In addition, the district attorney’s investigative report found a routine “row check” at 5 a.m. didn’t take place because deputies said they were dealing with two other incidents inside the jail at the time.

That came 10 minutes after Tabor had pushed a distress button in his cell asking to take a shower. The request was denied.

At 5:25 a.m., deputies noticed Tabor was having trouble breathing and had a nurse check his vitals. An ambulance arrived, but Tabor died before he made it to a hospital.

“It's like he wasn't even a person while he was in there and he was an amazing person,” McLean said.

The Adams County Sheriff’s Office declined comment but Corizon Health released a statement.

“We are first and foremost a healthcare company. Our doctors, nurses and other frontline professionals are deeply affected by the death of a patient in their care, and our hearts go out to Mr. Tabor’s family for their loss. Heroin and opiate addiction is a national crisis facing our country that is destroying lives and families and inundating our criminal justice system. Corizon Health doctors, registered nurses and other clinical providers work consistently day after day to provide reasonable and appropriate care based on standards established by the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare and the circumstances presented to them.

One of the most common misconceptions about our company – and indeed our industry - is that we somehow benefit from providing lower quality care. On the contrary, what makes good medical sense and good business sense is providing preventive care and intervening early to treat conditions before they become more serious and costly to treat. Though we are limited by patient privacy laws and this legal action from discussing the specific circumstances of this case, the health care providers involved have a right to be defended based on the facts and not judged in the media before they have an opportunity to tell an impartial jury what happened. We trust all involved will have that opportunity as we intend to vigorously defend this case.”