Lawsuit alleges HIV-positive inmate died after being denied medication at Northern California jail

Jan 22, 2024, 1:55 PM

PLACERVILLE, Calif. (AP) — A lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died after being held in a Northern California jail alleges he contracted a preventable viral infection there when its medical staff denied him critical HIV medication for two months.

When Nicholas Overfield was arrested in Feb. 2022 for a failure to appear in court, he informed officers that he was HIV-positive and required antiretroviral medication to keep the virus in check, according to the court filing.

His mother, Lesley Overfield, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, handed the arresting officers her son’s prescribed medication but he was never administered it, the filing says.

“Medical records show that he was denied his prescribed HIV medication for the entire two months he was detained,” the lawsuit alleges.

Overfield’s health deteriorated rapidly as his HIV “devolved into AIDS” and he was eventually released from jail and hospitalized, according to court documents. He died while under hospice care on June 21, 2022.

The civil lawsuit filed Jan. 16 in U.S. District Court names El Dorado County and the jail’s contracted healthcare provider, Wellpath Community Care. It demands a jury trial and seeks unspecified damages.

Officials with the county and Wellpath didn’t immediately reply on Monday to emails seeking comment on the allegations.

The lawsuit says when Lesley Overfield visited her son on April 22, 2022, he “was so unwell and so diminished that he could not even speak to his mother.” She demanded “the jail provide Nick with the medical care he clearly needed” and he was rushed to a hospital that same evening, according to the filing.

“Defendants were either unaware of or, worse, ignoring the severity of Nick’s general health and medical condition until they were forced to confront those things by his mother,” the lawsuit says.

Overfield’s death certificate said he died of encephalitis “and indicated that Nick contracted this virus two months prior to his death,” while he was in custody, according to court documents.

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Lawsuit alleges HIV-positive inmate died after being denied medication at Northern California jail