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The County's $3.5 Million Settlement

Borges family negotiates additional training, medical protocol in wake of jail death

The county of Humboldt has settled the federal civil rights lawsuit stemming from the 2014 jail death of Daren Borges, agreeing to pay Borges' family $3.5 million in damages and legal fees, and to make various changes to jail policy. Borges, 42, a homeless, schizophrenic poet and artist, was living in Eureka at the time of his June 13, 2014, arrest on suspicion of public intoxication. Eureka police officers arrested him at about 2:15 p.m. near the corner of Seventh and D streets and booked him into the jail 25 minutes later. Correctional officers placed Borges alone in a sobering cell, where he was found unresponsive about an hour and 20 minutes later. In August, a federal jury found county correctional officers failed to follow policy and recklessly disregarded Borges' obvious medical needs and effectively caused his death when they rushed him through the booking process and opted not to have him medically screened before placing him into the sobering cell where he died of a methamphetamine overdose. The jury, which deliberated for about 10 hours before returning its unanimous verdicts, also found that Humboldt County had failed to adequately train its correctional officers. Immediately after the jury's $2.5 million verdict, the county indicated it would seek to have the judgment thrown out and ask for a new trial in the case but it appears settlement negotiations have been underway since October, according to court records. Journal attempts to reach County Counsel Jeff Blanck for this story were unsuccessful but Dale Galipo, who along with John Fattahi represented Borges' family, said the county "quickly realized" case law and evidence were contrary to its position in the case and there was a "strong likelihood" that a continued effort to fight the verdict would only drive up attorneys' fees. Fattahi said a recent ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals bolstered the legal standard used in Borges' case — essentially saying that correctional officers have a duty to intervene in situations where pre-trial detainees are in a state that a reasonable person would see as requiring medical care. Seeing the Ninth Circuit case, Fattahi said the county realized settlement was its best option. And that represented an abrupt change of course, the attorneys said, as the county had been unwilling to seriously discuss settlement prior to trial. "They made no offer," Fattahi said, adding that he and Galipo made several offers…

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