The family of a Rikers Island inmate who died after choking on an orange slice at the jail complex is suing the city for $20 million.
Herman Diaz, 52, suddenly collapsed after choking on the citrus on March 18, but there was no officer supervising the housing area when he went into distress, according to the Manhattan Federal Court papers.
Other inmates had to carry Diaz to a clinic “while officers looked on. Left helpless and denied care until it was too late, he died,” according to court papers.
The city Department of Correction has seen 11 deaths in custody so far this year, a 60% increase compared to 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 the jails have been longstanding, and they cannot be fixed overnight. The city is committed to working diligently with the court monitor to implement enduring reforms,” a Law Department spokesman 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, matainining the woman’s death was preventable.