Family Files Suit Against Abdalla, Staff

STEUBENVILLE – The family of a man who died a year ago at the Jefferson County jail from complications from diabetes filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court Friday against Sheriff Fred Abdalla and staff at the jail.

Adam L. Cook was booked into the jail on March 24, 2013, and was there until June 11, 2013. Cook, according to the lawsuit, told jail staff he was a diabetic and needed insulin.

Cook was arrested again June 23, 2013, and was brought intoxicated to the jail. The lawsuit states Cook was questioned by jail staff about medical conditions and he answered “no” to being a diabetic. A corrections officer said Cook was intoxicated and his answers couldn’t be relied upon. Cook had a tattoo on his wrist that read “diabetic,” the suit claims.

The lawsuit states the jail staff should have known Cook was a diabetic and need regular insulin. The staff didn’t isolate Cook, who was suffering from alcohol withdrawal, so he could be assessed by the jail’s medical personnel, including a doctor and nurse.

The lawsuit states Cook was placed in the general prisoner population and no insulin was provided.

A cellmate notified a corrections officer on June 24, 2013, that Cook was a diabetic, hadn’t received insulin and was ill, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also alleges the jail’s staff had at least six opportunities to save Cook’s life and were “deliberately indifferent” to Cook’s medical needs, including being transported to court by a deputy and Cook stating he needed insulin and a meeting with the jail’s nurse, who decided Cook would receive insulin during the regular medication rounds later in the evening June 24.

A jailer called out Cook’s name at the medication time but Cook collapsed trying to get out of his cell, the lawsuit states. The jailer told two other inmates to help Cook back to his cell, according to the 68-page lawsuit.

Cook slipped into a coma and died in his cell in the early morning hours of June 25, 2013.

An autopsy of Cook conducted at the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office showed he died as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication of diabetes. The lawsuit alleges the jail’s nurse made a late entry on the jail doctor’s order that showed Cook would receive the same medication as he received during his incarceration in March 2013, and signed the doctor’s name.

As part of the investigation into Cook’s death, two jailers interviewed inmates, who stated Cook needed immediate medical attention just hours prior to his death.

The corrections officers allegedly tore up and threw away the written statements made by the other inmates, the lawsuit states.

Inmates at the jail with diabetes need to be monitored on a daily basis, but the lawsuit alleges the jail does not have a management plan for diabetics or those suffering from alcohol withdrawal.

Abdalla did not have a comment on the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Amy Zuelsdoerf, Cook’s sister, and Bobbi Jo Cook, his ex-wife and mother of their child. Both plaintiffs reside in Jefferson County and are co-administrators of Cook’s estate.

In addition to Abdalla, defendants named in the suit include Dr. Tod Hagins, jail medical director; corrections officers Christine Thomas, James Ice, Mary Littlejohn, Frank Tomeucci, Shawn Livingston and Manard Reed; and Wanda J. Oiler, jail nurse.