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Summit County agrees to $3.5 million settlement over inmate's jail death

Posted at 5:16 PM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 20:52:01-05

Summit County has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the family of an inmate who died after suffering from alcohol withdrawal while held in the jail in 2013.

Zachary Moffitt, a father of two young children, struggled with alcoholism throughout his life. 

According to a lawsuit filed by Moffitt's family, he had a blood alcohol content of .392 when he was admitted to a hospital for acute alcohol poisoning. During his hospitalization, Moffitt became agitated and tried to remove his own IV. Moffitt eventually got up and walked out of the hospital acting obviously drunk. A hospital security guard called police, who took Moffitt to jail while he still had a blood alcohol content that was more than four times the legal limit for intoxication. 

Moffitt spent three days in the jail. According to the lawsuit, he suffered for three days "in plain view of his jailers."

Video from inside Moffitt's cell shows him hitting his head into the side of his bunk. 

"Over a period of three days, Zachary Moffitt slowly died due to alcohol withdrawal,” Moffitt family attorney David Lane said.

The lawsuit said Moffitt suffered hallucinations and made threats of suicide and exhibited classic symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but did not receive any medical attention from jail staff. 

After three days in the jail, Moffitt suffered a cardiac arrest. After four days on life support, Moffitt died. 

This month, the county agreed to settle the lawsuit brought by Moffitt's family for $3.5 million. 

Sheriff Jamie FitzSimons was not in office when Moffitt died, but he said the jail has changed its policies to try to prevent something like this from happening again.

Medical staff now meets with new inmates, the security camera system has been improved, and medical staff is on call 24 hours a day.

The jail is also changing the way it handles inmates with known addiction issues.

"If they are detoxing from something or intoxicated, they are sent with a detox package -- that has medicine and we turn that over to our medical provider and this person is monitored," FitzSimons said. 

The settlement will have to be approved by probate court, because Moffitt's two young children will receive the payout.