The family of a Rikers Island inmate who died after choking on a slice of orange at the prison complex is suing the city for $20 million.
Herman Diaz, 52, suddenly collapsed after choking on citrus fruit on March 18, but no officers were watching the living area when he entered the distressed area, Manhattan Federal Court documents show. .
Other inmates had to transport Diaz to a clinic “as officers watched. Left helpless and deprived of care until it was too late, he died,” according to court documents.
The city’s correctional department has recorded 11 deaths in custody so far this year, a 60% increase from 2021. The agency has faced a wave of criticism for its failure to provide proper medical treatment to detainees.
“Any death in custody is tragic. The problems in prisons have been around for a long time and they cannot be solved overnight. The city is committed to working diligently with the Comptroller of the Court to implement lasting reforms,” a Legal Department spokesperson said of the Diaz litigation.
On July 26, the family of Rikers Island inmate Mary Yehudah, who died in custody in May, filed a $50 million notice of claim against the city, saying the woman’s death was preventable.