(CN) – The family of a delirious Bahamian doctor who died in police custody in Connecticut can bring wrongful death and medical malpractice claims against police and a hospital, a federal judge ruled.
Lashano Gilbert, a 31-year-old medical doctor from the Bahamas, arrived in the town of New London to stay with his aunt in 2014.
One night later, Gilbert jumped into the window of a car that was stopped at a red light, court records show. He was speaking incoherently and making stabbing motions at the driver.
Police subdued Gilbert with a stun gun and took him to Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. Gilbert was flailing his body and hallucinating, saying that a ghost had jumped out of the cemetery and into his stomach.
Dr. Deirdre Cronin-Vorih and other medical staff found that Gilbert had a fast heart rate, a fever and hypertension. They did not perform blood work, a CT scan or a psychiatric evaluation before returning Gilbert to police custody, according to court records.
Gilbert got into a physical altercation with officers at the police station. The officers allegedly subdued, shackled, stunned and pepper-sprayed him, and wrapped a towel around his face. Gilbert reportedly said that he couldn’t breathe.
He died in police custody, and the medical examiner reportedly ruled his death a homicide, citing the cause of death as a physical altercation “during acute psychosis complication.” A state’s attorney found that officers’ use of force was justified.
Gilbert’s estate sued the police and hospital, later amending the complaint to name its co-administrators, Donna Smith and Albertha Fletcher, as the plaintiffs.
The defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for the lack of an adequate medical opinion letter.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Connecticut denied the motions on Tuesday, allowing the case to move forward.
“[The defendants] claim that the Estate of Lashano Gilbert lacked capacity and lacked standing, and that these defects cannot be cured by substituting the estate’s administrators,” he wrote. “I disagree: While the estate lacked capacity and was not the real party in interest, it did have standing, and substitution is warranted under Federal Rule of Procedure 17(a)(3).”
Shea also refused to dismiss the hospital from the case, despite its argument that Dr. Cronin-Vorih was the only medical professional named by the plaintiffs.
“Plaintiffs allege that Dr. Cronin-Vorih was an employee of Lawrence and Memorial Hospital, attended to Mr. Gilbert in the hospital’s emergency room with other hospital staff, and that there was an understanding that the hospital was in control,” the judge wrote.
Shea also refused the medical defendants’ request to sever their case from that of the police defendants.
“The events at the police station are relevant to the plaintiffs’ argument that Dr. Cronin-Vorih’s breach of the standard of care was the proximate cause of Mr. Gilbert’s death,” he wrote.
The New York Daily News reported that the video from the police station shows Gilbert jumping on the booking desk and throwing objects at the officers. The Daily Mail stated that Gilbert attacked the officers after they tried to prevent him from fashioning his pants into a noose.