POCATELLO — Former Bannock County Coroner Kim Quick announced Tuesday that he has filed a tort claim against the county seeking more than $8 million in damages related to the December death of his mentally ill son at the Bannock County Jail.
The announcement of the tort claim came during a Tuesday press conference hosted by Quick at the Bannock County Courthouse, where he appeared with his wife Shauna and their Salt Lake City attorney Karra Porter.
A required precursor to file a civil lawsuit, the tort claim states that Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen and his staff at the Bannock County Jail “were, under any definition, grossly negligent, reckless, willful and wanton” in their actions leading up to the Dec. 14, 2018, death of Kim’s 40-year-old son, Lance Allen Quick of Pocatello.
“The Quicks are pursuing a tort claim against Bannock County and the officers involved in (Lance Quick’s) death,” said Porter, adding that she began her career as an attorney defending sheriffs and jails. “I have been doing this for 30 years, and this is the most appalling case I’ve ever seen. It is the most shocking case I’ve ever seen.”
In response to Kim Quick’s Tuesday press conference, Nielsen said Lance Quick’s death after being held at the jail for six days was caused by Idaho’s “broken” mental health system. Nielsen said he doesn’t think Idaho’s jails should be places where mentally ill people are taken.
Nielsen said, “I know we are trying with these crisis centers and mental health experts across the state are trying, but how we handle mental health in our state is broken. (Mental health) is not properly funded and (jails) are not equipped to be able to deal with chronic mental illness, especially when they have an episode. Nor do we want to be.”
Nielsen and Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog hosted a press conference on Dec. 17, at which the sheriff said Lance Quick went into cardiac arrest at the jail while waiting for transport to a mental health facility.
At that press conference Nielsen said medical staff deputies at the jail performed CPR on Lance Quick before he was transported by ambulance to Portneuf Medical Center, where he died.
Also during that press conference, Nielsen referenced Lance Quick’s death as an example of what can happen when people in need of mental health treatment are instead locked in jail.
Nielsen said Lance Quick, who was employed as a home inspector, had a mental illness diagnosis, was off his medication and was acting out when Pocatello police arrested him and brought him to the jail. Nielsen said Lance Quick was too incoherent to be arraigned in court, and jail staff members made several calls to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in an attempt to have him admitted to a mental health facility, to no avail.
On Tuesday, Porter provided to the media the tort claim and a draft version of Kim Quick’s civil lawsuit against the county. She stated the documents tell a different story than the one presented by Nielsen regarding the last six days of Lance Quick’s life, which were mostly spent inside a 6-foot by 10-foot jail cell with no sink, toilet or bed.
Lance Quick spent the last days of his life surrounded by concrete walls with nothing but a drain in the middle of the cell, a sleeping pad and a blanket, Porter said.
The tort claim states that on Dec. 8, 2018, Lance Quick began to experience a manic and psychotic episode that led to his arrest by Pocatello police on a suspicion of misdemeanor driving under the influence charge. The tort document states that Nielsen claimed Lance Quick was unable to communicate with jail staff from the onset of his incarceration and that jailers were aware that Lance Quick was mentally ill and experiencing a mental breakdown.
Kim Quick and family friend Jodi Carlson, who’s a nurse, repeatedly told Nielsen that Lance Quick was bipolar and needed medication and hospitalization for his mental condition, according to the tort claim. Lance Quick also reportedly made appeals to jail staff members for mental health treatment on his own behalf, while he was still able.
The jail also had records from a previous incident that documented Lance Quick’s mental disorder and the medications a jail physician prescribed to him.
“It was obvious shortly after arrival (at the jail) that Lance’s mental and medical health were deteriorating,” the tort claim states. “Lance showed this through behaviors such as: not eating or drinking, talking to himself ... engaging in bizarre behavior such as ‘washing’ himself with food, taking his clothes off, (and) talking and gesturing to himself. From day one, jail staff repeatedly told Lance’s friend (Carlson) and parents that he could not speak to them because he was ‘incapacitated.’”
By Dec. 10, Lance Quick was too incoherent even for a video arraignment and had been placed in a monitored jail cell equipped with a camera, according to the tort claim.
On Dec. 11, jail officials sought and obtained a temporary custody order that said Lance Quick should be in a mental health facility and that he “shall not be detained in a non-medical unit used for the detention of individuals charged with or convicted of penal offenses,” the tort claim reads. But Lance Quick remained at the jail rather than being transferred to a mental health facility.
A jailer called the behavioral health unit at Portneuf Medical Center on Dec. 12 asking if Lance Quick could be admitted there. The jailer was told that no beds were available there, but that Lance Quick could be brought into the hospital itself for medical treatment, such as lab work, according to the tort claim.
“Acting in accord with Sheriff Nielsen’s direction, (the jailer) refused to have Lance taken to the hospital for medical treatment because the hospital would require Lance to be accompanied by a law enforcement officer,” the tort claim states. “It was Sheriff Nielsen’s view, which he had expressed publicly and within the jail, that jailers should not have to transport medically ill inmates to receive medical treatment. Nielsen believed that the jail should be allowed to hire private medical ambulances to transport inmates for treatment. Because the hospital stated that it would require law enforcement presence if Lance were brought there for medical treatment, the jail refused to transport him, and — literally — just left him in the cell to die.”
The tort claim states that Lance Quick’s mental health continued to deteriorate until he completely lost touch with reality. At the same time, because he hadn’t had food or water for so long, he began to grow more weak and slow. By the morning of Dec. 14, jail personnel had started including in their logs whether Lance Quick was still breathing, the tort claim states. Around 10:20 a.m. on Dec. 14, jail staff members found Lance Quick lying on his back, not breathing.
CPR was performed but he was dead, the tort claim states.
“In sum, Bannock County detained an inmate (Lance Quick) with known medical and mental conditions in a holding cell and — despite the urgings of Lance’s family and friends, despite records in the jail’s own possession, and despite watching Lance’s condition deteriorate — did not provide Lance with any medical treatment,” the tort claim reads. “After nearly a week in which Lance was known to be suffering from withdrawal of prescription medications, known to be not eating, drinking, or sleeping, known to be hallucinating and known to be growing weak and unresponsive, Lance died from dehydration. By then, he was gaunt, having lost more than 15 pounds.”
Porter said at Tuesday’s press conference that the tort claim has been filed and that Nielsen and Bannock County must take responsibility for Lance Quick’s death, compensate the Quick family for their losses, remedy the jail’s inability to care for inmates suffering from mental illness, and ensure nobody suffers the same fate as Lance Quick — or otherwise face a civil lawsuit.
“Sheriff Nielsen and nearly a dozen Bannock County jailers all ignored an inmate’s known, severe and deteriorating medical condition for nearly a week,” the tort claim reads. “Instead, they just watched him slowly die.”
Nielsen told the Journal on Tuesday afternoon that he was aware of the tort claim filing, though he has not yet seen a copy of the document. He declined to comment on specifics of the incident involving Lance Quick or the potential civil lawsuit, but he said he empathizes with the Quick family, calling the ordeal a tragedy.
Neilsen also doubled-down on his statements from his December press conference about what he called a broken mental health care system throughout the state.
“Enough is enough as far as mental patients being housed in our jail goes,” Nielsen said. “We have been trying to get some kind of attention and it seems like you must have a fatality at an intersection to finally get a traffic light. I don’t know what more serious we can get.”