Just a few months ago, our West Palm Beach injury lawyer brought you the story of the tragic death of 18-year-old Eric Perez, a young man who died last July while in the custody of a local juvenile detention center. This week, according to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, the parents of the teen announced their plans to file a Palm Beach wrongful death suit against the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (“DJJ”). This news comes on the heels of the grand jury announcing that its decision not to file charges against the officers who were on duty at the time of Perez’s death. The grand jury’s report did excoriate the officers for their failure to call for medical assistance for Perez in the hours leading up to his death but failed to find that their actions – or lack thereof – warranted criminal charges.
An attorney for Perez’s mother and father, Maritza Perez and Placido Ventura, said that he had planned to file the complaint on March 16 but that he was now planning to wait until after a meeting with the DJJ. It is not clear when that event will take place, and a spokesman for the DJJ declined to comment on the purpose of the meeting.
When our Palm Beach negligence lawyer first shared this story, relatively little was known about what happened the night that Perez died. At that time, reporters knew that Perez, who was celebrating his 18th birthday the evening before he died, was observed around 1:30 in the morning. He appeared to be suffering from some kind of delusion or hallucination, and he became sick to his stomach. However, no medical attention was sought. Instead, a guard gave Perez a soda and sent him back to bed. No one called for a doctor until the following morning when they found Perez, but by that time, it was too late. Perez was pronounced dead around 8:00 the morning after his 18th birthday.
Now that several months have passed since the investigation into Perez’s death began, a clearer picture has begun to emerge. An attorney who is representing Perez’s parents told reporters that the family plans to present testimony from a neurosurgeon in order to establish that the death was caused by a cerebral hemorrhage. It is their contention that the hemorrhage was the result of Perez being dropped on his head by guards during an attempt to punish him for sneaking a snack to his room. Security video from that time period shows that the guards did indeed drop him on his head. In addition to causing the hemorrhage by dropping him on his head, the family will also maintain that in spite of his injuries, Perez could have survived if guards had only paid enough attention to him to realize that he was very ill and in need of immediate medical attention. If there had either been a doctor on site or one who was on call, Perez might very well still be alive today.
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