A federal court jury on Thursday awarded $200,000 to the estate of a Nepalese doctor who hanged himself with bed sheets in the Allegheny County Jail eight years ago.
The jury found that Dana Phillips, who had been the chief operating officer for the jail's health care provider, violated the civil rights of Shiva Lal Acharya, 33, who killed himself in his cell Dec. 13, 2008, while awaiting trial in a hit-and-run case.
The jury did not find the other defendants liable. They were the county, former jail Warden Ramon Rustin, former county health director Bruce Dixon and Allegheny Correctional Health Services, the institution for which Ms. Phillips served as chief operations officer.
Dr. Acharya’s estate sued in 2009, saying jail officials knew Dr. Acharya was suicidal but didn’t do enough to stop him from hanging himself.
The lawyers representing his estate, Milo Lundblad and Timothy O’Brien, said the jail should have been on alert because another inmate committed suicide in the same cell about four months earlier.
“They were on notice that that could happen there,” Mr. O’Brien said.
Mr. Lundblad said Dr. Acharya had been under observation in September and November after indications that he was suicidal but was later transferred to several step-down areas where he was no longer under supervision.
He said that Dr. Acharya started putting his plan into action on Dec. 3, when he asked for multiple Tylenol pills and stopped taking lithium.
A toxic level of Tylenol was later found in his system after the suicide. But Mr. Lundblad said no one with mental health training was monitoring him at the time.
On Dec. 13, he knotted together several bed sheets, wrapped them around a fire sprinkler on the ceiling and hanged himself.
Attorney David Rosenberg, who represented Ms. Phillips, said he couldn’t comment because the case is ongoing. In court and at trial, he and lawyers for the other defendants argued that the doctor did not give an indication that he was suicidal.
Dr. Acharya, who had practiced in Chicago, was charged in September 2008 with hitting and killing a man on a motorcycle, Keith Brown of Green Bay, Wis., on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
Police had earlier tried to pull over his BMW in Ohio for speeding but he fled, leading to a chase at 130 mph. Officers called off the pursuit at the Pennsylvania border.
After Dr. Acharya crashed in Pine, he ran into the woods and hid for four hours. Police on foot and using a helicopter caught him and took him to jail.
Troopers said he had been on his way from Chicago to Easton, Pa., for a job interview.
Torsten Ove: email@example.com or 412-263-1504.
First Published February 11, 2016 4:17 PM