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Two jail suicides may be wrongful deaths

The death of a loved one is never an easy situation to handle. This is especially true when there is a debate over the cause of death. The law recognizes that there may be situations that are unclear, and concerned family members have the opportunity to bring a wrongful death claim.

Two families of inmates at the Armstrong County Jail have decided to file such actions in federal court after the death of their loved ones. The deaths occurred within about a year of each other. The men were both found in solitary confinement cells and are alleged to have committed suicide.

Upon further investigation, however, both of the men's families believe that their deaths may be the result of the jail's negligence. As a result, the families recently filed suit against the facility, county and several officials. The families claim that the deaths were a result of the jail's failure to provide basic human services to the men. Both men had mental health issues, yet they received no medical attention nor were they ever placed on suicide watch. Additionally, the families allege that the men were not properly monitored. Their cells had a small window that was covered.

Like other wrongful death actions, the lawsuits will proceed forward and an ultimate determination will be made regarding the defendants' role in and responsibility for the men's deaths. What is perhaps less apparent is whether or not these actions have been filed in a timely manner.

Like any civil action, a plaintiff does not have an unlimited amount of time to file a lawsuit even though the plaintiff may have evidence demonstrating the defendant's liability. The statute of limitations places a time limit on when an action must be filed.

In wrongful death actions, the statute of limitations begins running from the time that the plaintiff knew or should have known that the defendant may have been a cause of the decedent's death. Once the plaintiff has such knowledge, the plaintiff must file suit within a specific time period. If the plaintiff fails to do so, the possible wrongful death action will likely prove unsuccessful. A wrongful death attorney can advise potential plaintiffs on proper sequencing of filing procedures as well as other crucial deadlines.

Source: triblive.com, "Families file suits in inmate suicides," Brad Pedersen, Aug. 31, 2013

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