PITTSBURGH — The family of a man who died at the Allegheny County Jail in 2021 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the jail.
George M. Kontos, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Allen’s children, said Allen’s death was “clearly preventable.”
According to the lawsuit, Paul Allen had a well-documented history of asthma and was prescribed medication for it when he was arrested. He also spent time in the hospital for asthma induced injuries before he was incarcerated for DUI in early July 2021.
The lawsuit, backed by his three children, said the jail noted Allen had asthma during his intake screening and was given his medication. He was then released but arrested again on Sept. 10 2021.
During intake, Allen had an inhaler on him. He was prescribed two, with which he was to take eight puffs per day.
The lawsuit said about a week later, Allen was seen for asthma exacerbation. He told jail employees he was prescribed two inhalers but only had one in his possession from the jail. He also said he had been wheezing and was having trouble breathing.
The lawsuit said after this encounter, the jail’s employees said they would recheck Allen later in the day for stability and would follow up with the pharmacy regarding his prescription, which Allen’s records show no evidence of happening.
On Sept. 28, Allen reportedly had worsened dyspnea with no benefit from his inhaler. He had a physical exam and had diffused bilateral expiratory wheezes.
After the exam, Allen was moved to the Medical Housing Unit in the jail.
The next day, Allen was still experiencing the same symptoms. A chest x-ray was ordered, but Allen’s records show no evidence of it happening.
Allen’s condition improved over the course of the following week before he had trouble breathing again on Oct. 9. He was also hypoxemic, tachypneic and hypotensive, the lawsuit said.
Allen reportedly told jail staff that he was feeling shortness of breath on that day more than ever before. He also said he used his inhaler without relief.
Allen was administered a drug to reduce inflammation and a nebulizer, which was given in a way that was less effective, the lawsuit said. Because of this, Allen remained tachypneic and hypoxemic.
Later that day, Allen was found slumped over in a chair unresponsive and without a pulse. Staff preformed CPR on him at 5:45 p.m. and he was taken to UPMC Mercy where he was pronounced dead at 6:28 p.m.
An autopsy revealed Allen’s cause of death was bronchial asthma.
The lawsuit said the jail failed to supervise Allen while he was under distress despite knowing of his medical condition. It also said they didn’t supervise him during his respiratory distress on the day he died and didn’t transfer him to the emergency department in a timely manner when they found him unresponsive.
The lawsuit said Allen was unresponsive for more than 40 minutes before he arrived at the hospital.
The lawsuit said the jail didn’t give Allen his prescription upon request, despite him entering the jail with his medication and being prescribed what he needed.
The lawsuit seeks an amount in excess of $75,000.
Allegheny County Jail spokesperson Jesse Geleynse said the jail doesn’t comment on lawsuits or legal matters as a matter of policy.
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