Lawyer: Inmate's death could have been prevented; wins $2.4M verdict

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A man held in the Richmond City Jail died behind bars and his family said Sheriff C.T. Woody and the chief doctor at the jail are to blame. A Richmond jury agreed. It awarded James Robinson's family $2.4-million in the wrongful death suit.

It took a jury less than five hours to award that money to Robinson's family, including a 21-year old-son and 14-year-old daughter. We're told he was in jail for about two weeks, almost a week of which he was exhibiting symptoms of the condition that ultimately claimed his life, but went undiagnosed at the facility.

46-year-old James D. Robinson was a loving son and doting father. In early 2008, he was arrested for two crimes: failure to appear and driving on a suspended license. He was sent to the Richmond City Jail; which according to a jury is a move that ended his life.

Robinson had a seizure disorder and was supposed to be on medication. Lawyers Mark Krudys and David Prince said he wasn't getting that medication and medical attention at the jail. They explained he complained of difficulty breathing and pain.

"An inmate at the jail cannot call down to CVS for medication," Krudys told us. "They can't call MCV and say 'I need some care right now.' They are totally depending on the medical services staff."

According to the case, Mr. Robinson saw the chief doctor one time during his stay but we're told that examination only lasted between one and five minutes. When he collapsed three days later, a defibrillator was used to try and revive him but the machine didn't work. To make matters worse, lawyers said, jail staff knew that beforehand.

Testimony showed Robinson literally drowned in the fluid in his lungs.

"The first time that Mr. Robinson was diagnosed with the Broncho-Pneumonia that killed him was upon autopsy," Krudys said while showing NBC12 the medical examiner's report.

The sheriff's office said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case. The mayor is calling the death tragic and said it underscores the "deplorable conditions at the city jail."

We asked Krudys if he thought the verdict would prevent something like this from ever happening again... His answer was, "I hope so."

Since Robinson's death the jail issued a new contract for its medical services. Krudys thinks that also might help prevent this kind of situation.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.