The price of the premature death of A. J. Longsoldier will be paid by the sheriff’s offices of Hill and Blaine counties, and the Department of Labor and Industry’s Hearing Bureau will decide in the next few months how much it will be.
In September, the Montana Human Rights Bureau Commission overturned the labor department’s prior decision, that Hill and Blaine counties were not liable for his death. The commission sent its decision back to the Hearing Bureau to decide what the cost of their responsibility would be.
Last week, lawyers representing the counties and Longsoldier’s estate filed briefs explaining how much responsibility they believe deputies and detention center staff members have and what will be done about it.
The attorneys for Hill and Blaine counties, Maureen Lennon and Mark Higgins respectively, filed their briefs explaining how the departments do not owe monetary compensation based on past federal discrimination rulings.
They argue that the law requires “deliberate indifference, ” which does not cover the “mere negligence” that took place.
Both attorneys state, in their proposed decisions, that no money be awarded to Longsoldier’s estate or family for the damages, but that each department receive training in recognizing and treating disabilities and how to handle inmates suffering from delirium tremens, the alcohol withdrawal that killed Longsoldier.
Longsoldier’s attorneys, Patrick Flaherty and Steven Potts, said they believe that the officers did show indifference to Longsoldier’s suffering, though more as an “institutional indifference toward alcoholics” than the conscious “deliberate indifference” discussed by the defendants.
They argue for monetary damages to compensate for emotional distress, wrongful death, survivorship damages, lost earnings and affirmative relief, suggesting a total of $2,917,175.80 be paid to his estate.
They agree with the counties’ attorneys that law enforcement in both counties should receive training from medical professionals in the right way to handle inmates with all sorts of disabilities and how to provide the necessary care.
Their proposed decision also includes a suggested plaque placed outside the “rubber room” that Longsoldier died in, “on the wall where the unfilled prescriptions hung, ” that would read “In Memory of Allen Longsoldier. To The World You May Be One Person, But To One Person You May Be The World. ”
The attorneys have until the end of the month to file responses to each other’s suggestions. Then the hearing officer with the labor department will reconsider his original no-fault decision, by order of the Human Rights Bureau, and decide where in between each sides’ suggestions the final restitution will fall.