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Wrongful death: Man dies from heat stroke in Texas prison

Wrongful death cases in Texas involve filing a claim against a person or party for the death of a loved one. In order to be successful, a wrongful death claim must show the death of a human being caused by negligence of another, with family members who are suffering financially due to the death of their loved one.

Plaintiffs who successfully prove their case are most likely to receive financial or pecuniary damages. These damages cover pecuniary injuries that resulted from the decedent's death, such as loss of income and medical expenses. In Texas, punitive damages are also available in some wrongful death suits. These fines are designed to prevent the guilty party from behaving in negligent conduct in the future.

Last summer, a 58-year-old man died from heat stroke, sustained while in a Dallas-area prison without air conditioning. At least nine people suffered from heat-related deaths last summer in Texas prisons. A wrongful death suit has been filed to change conditions for older inmates and those with medical conditions who cannot handle the intense summer heat.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said that there is a protocol that is followed in hot weather conditions. This protocol involves providing inmates with water and ice, using fans, limiting outdoor activity and allowing additional showers and shorts to be worn.

As is evidenced by the number of heat-related fatalities, the current measures supposedly enforced in state prisons are not enough to protect inmates' health. At this point, only 21 out of 111 prison units are fully air-conditioned.

Some argue that the conditions are not that bad and that prison life should not be easy. Yet others say that it is simply inhumane to subject anyone, even prisoners to these conditions.

Furthermore, there are potentially concerns about constitutional rights in these cases. The Eighth Amendment forbids cruel and unusual punishment, which could be an implication of subjecting prisoners to extreme heat.

Regardless of what happens with prison conditions in the future, damages from this wrongful death suit will hopefully provide some solace to the family of the man who lost his life.

Source: KSAT-TV News, "Lack of A/C for vulnerable prison inmates prompts lawsuit," Jessie Degollado, June 28, 2012

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Brian Jensen

Representation in the Houston Area with 2 Convenient Locations:

Bellaire Office
Frost Bank Building
6750 West Loop South
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Bellaire, TX 77401

Toll Free: 877-297-7414
Phone: 832-460-3366
Fax: 713-665-6818
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