Family of Bucks man who died in jail to receive $1M in settlement with county, medical provider

The family of a Bucks County man who died less than a day after he was incarcerated in Bucks County Correctional Center has been awarded more than $1 million in a recently approved settlement. It's the largest payout from Bucks County in nearly a decade.

At its June 15 meeting, the Bucks County Commissioners approved a $625,000 payout, part of a $1.375 million settlement with the family of Frederick Adami, 52, who died in January 2018 as a result of complications related to opiate withdrawal.

PrimeCare Medical, the county contracted medical provider for the jail, will pay the remaining $750,000, according to court documents.

Frederick Adami died of complications from drug withdrawal in January 2018. [CONTRIBUTED]
Frederick Adami died of complications from drug withdrawal in January 2018. [CONTRIBUTED]

At the same meeting, the commissioners approved two contracts totaling $210,660 with PrimeCare Medical to provide services and programming related to medication-assisted treatment for inmates with substance abuse disorder. The contracts include $148,000 to provide Sublocade, a buprenorphine extended-release injection that treats opiate dependence, and related services through December 2023. The program funding is through state grants.

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Adami’s family filed a wrongful death suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in 2019 alleging that the county and PrimeCare Medical failed to properly monitor and treat Adami despite signs of worsening medical distress.

Family members alleged the county failed to address known weaknesses with its treatment and monitoring policies and practices for inmates experiencing substance withdrawal, despite prior deaths.

It also accused the county of attempting to cover up its alleged negligence by erasing security camera video from the cell outside where Adami was housed, after it was informed to preserve the footage.

Adami, a father of five, was arrested on an outstanding domestic relations bench warrant shortly after 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 27, 2018. According to the lawsuit, Adami had recently used heroin. He was transferred to the county jail where he was booked shortly before 7:30 a.m., according to the suit.

About three hours later, during an intake medical screening with a nurse, Adami admitted to using 20 bags of heroin daily, and that he last used a “couple bags” the day before, according to the lawsuit.

Adami told the nurse that he was experiencing vomiting and chills, common withdrawal symptoms; he also had an elevated blood pressure, which the nurse noted, the suit alleges. The nurse also noted his appearance was “inappropriate,” and he had trouble walking.

But the nurse dismissed Adami's claim of withdrawal symptoms, according to the suit, noting in records that they were "not witnessed by any (corrections officers) while in reception."

A nurse entered an order for anti-anxiety, diarrhea and nausea medicines to treat Adami's withdrawal symptoms three hours after he was admitted. Adami did not receive any medications until 7 p.m., more than five hours later, and his unidentified cellmate reported that Adami had been frequently vomiting, according to the suit.

In recorded conversations, Adami’s cellmate said he attempted to tell the nurses and corrections officers about Adami’s worsening condition, but they “blew him off,” according to the suit.

Shortly before 6:30 a.m. the next morning, Adami was found dead in his cell. A subsequent autopsy ruled the death as related to an enlarged heart, a common condition among chronic drug users.

Since 2013, four people incarcerated in Bucks County’s jail have died as a result of complications from opiate detoxification. The last case occurred in October 2018, when 28-year-old Brittany Ann Harbaugh died four days after she was jailed on a parole violation.

In its own lawsuit, Harbaugh’s family alleges she complained in a phone call hours before her death that she was experiencing severe opiate withdrawal symptoms and chest pain.

The Adami settlement is the largest involving the county jail in at least the last eight years, according to a review of settlement documents obtained through Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law and courts.

Since 2014, Bucks County or its medical contractor PrimeCare Medical Services have paid out a combined $1.18 million to settle 15 other lawsuits with former inmates who alleged mistreatment at the jail.

Those other settlement payouts have ranged $3,500 to $375,000; the largest portion of those other awards — $720,000 — has been paid since 2019. Five lawsuits remain active in the courts.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County family collects $1 million in jail death settlement