Woman sues Allegheny County over jail injuries that resulted in amputation

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A Ross woman sued Allegheny County today, claiming that sheriff's deputies injured her arm and the jail's former medical provider ignored her complaints, resulting in amputation.

Amy J. Needham, 35, of Ross, was arrested by county sheriffs on April 2, according to the complaint. Her attorney, Marvin Leibowitz, said she was the subject of a warrant because she missed a preliminary hearing on a charge that was ultimately reduced to a disorderly conduct.

When sheriff's office employees arrived, Ms. Needham said she was using the bathroom, but they broke down the bathroom door, according to the complaint. They shocked her with a Taser, applied arm bars and wrist locks, and put on handcuffs "that were too tight," the complaint said.

That treatment, according to the complaint, caused "compartment syndrome," which is increased pressure in a muscle compartment that can damage both muscles and nerves.

Over the course of around a week in jail, according to Mr. Leibowitz, Ms. Needham made 16 requests to see a doctor, but was denied. She was finally hospitalized at UPMC Mercy where her arm was amputated above the elbow, according to the complaint.

“She feels that her life is ruined," said Mr. Leibowitz, adding that his client is a mother of three children, ages 5 to 9, and previously worked at a restaurant. "I think she’s having psychological problems. You’re 35 years old and you lose your arm.”

She has faced two criminal cases this year, resulting in guilty pleas to simple assault, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Mr. Leibowitz said she does not appear to have any other criminal record.

Mr. Leibowitz said Ms. Needham is off of work awaiting a prosthesis.

They have sued Sheriff William Mullen, sheriff's Lieut. John Kearney, sheriff's Detective Jared Kulik, Allegheny County, and Allegheny Correctional Health Services, which ran the jail infirmary through August. The complaint alleges excessive force, cruel and unusual punishment, battery and negligence, and demands more than $75,000 in damages.

A county spokeswoman declined to comment, citing a general policy against talking about litigation. Sheriff Mullen could not be immediately reached for comment.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord.

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