LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A judge ruled Friday that Los Angeles County and former Sheriff Lee Baca will remain defendants — for now — in a lawsuit brought by an inmate who gouged his own eyes out while in jail.
Inmate Michael Shabsis alleges that an anti-smoking medication, namely Chantix, was a factor in his psychotic breakdown that led him to the self-mutilation.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro also found, however, that the part of Shabsis’ case against the University of California Board of
Regents, a co-defendant in the lawsuit, will have to be shored up.
Shabsis filed his lawsuit in December 2014, alleging negligence, excessive force, battery and products liability. He claims his breakdown occurred “in part or in whole” because he was taking Chantix.
Named as defendants along with Los Angeles County, Baca and the UC Board of Regents are Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA and Dr. Philip
Shabsis says he began using Chantix in September 2013 to break a smoking habit, with a prescription provided by Cogen. Four months later, he says he
suffered a psychotic breakdown that led to him committing violent behavior toward his grandfather.
Shabsis was arrested and taken to the Twin Towers jail, where he was put in isolation despite being “in the midst of a severe manic episode,” according to his court papers. He says he became “delirious and delusional” while by himself in a cell.
Shabsis also alleges the jail deputies used excessive force against him and at one point caused him to fall, resulting in a fracture of one of his
hips. The pain became so intense and the glare of the lights so disturbing that on Jan. 2, 2014, Shabsis used “his own hands and fingers to gouge out both his eyes as he believed he was in hell,” according to his lawsuit.
Addressing the alleged abuse in his ruling, Marmaro said the allegations are “sufficient to show that the county defendants had policies that
amounted to a deliberate indifference of plaintiff’s constitutional rights.”
Marmaro said he was not convinced that claims of both medical and general negligence against the UC Regents are supported by the facts of the
case. He gave plaintiff’s attorney Michael Libman the chance to file an amended complaint in support of the lawyer’s belief that the two allegations should remain rather than just one.
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