BY JAMES HALPIN | CITIZEN’S VOICE STAFF WRITER
Dec 5, 2022
The father of a 30-year-old woman who died at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility sued the county on Monday, alleging surveillance video shows jail personnel ignoring his daughter’scries for help and leaving her to suffer for hours until she ultimately perished.
Mary E. Balliet, 30, of Pittston, died in the jail’s infirmary on Aug. 12, 2020, just 36 hours after being detained on bench warrants for alleged parole violations.
According to a lawsuit filed Monday by the Wilkes-Barre law firm Dyller and Solomon, Balliet showed obvious signs of distress yet was left virtually unattended by jail employees and medicalprofessionals with the jail’s medical provider, Wellpath LLC.
“Ms. Balliet died in a tragic — and wholly inhumane — manner,” attorneys Barry H. Dyller, Theron J. Solomon and Chad J. Sweigart wrote in the lawsuit. “During the last five hours of her life, Ms. Balliet suffered immensely in a recorded prison cell. Yet the on-duty Luzerne County nurses andstaff as well as the nurses of Wellpath LLC … did nothing during this time, provided no medicalcare to Ms. Balliet and left her to die.”
The incident was captured on video the attorneys described as “disturbing, cruel, unusual and conscious shocking.”
According to the complaint, Balliet could barely walk when she arrived at the jail, and a correctional officer wrote she had a history of heroin use and was suspected to be under theinfluence of drugs.
She was taken to a cell but then brought to the infirmary on the morning of Aug. 11, 2020. At the time, she appeared to be in significant pain and her eyes were rolling back in her head.
However, after being examined, she was sent back to her cell until the following morning, according to the complaint.
As jail personnel brought her to the infirmary the morning of Aug. 12, 2020, Balliet was “virtually unable to walk” and had to be dragged off the elevator, the suit alleges.
The suit says five nurses were present, yet nobody tried to have Balliet sent to a hospital despite her suffering from a life-threatening condition. Instead, Balliet was taken to a holding cell in theinfirmary, placed on a cot, and left to die, according to the complaint.
At several points, Balliet got up, “ambled” to the door and motioned to her chest, crying in agony, the suit alleges.
A nurse brought her an extra blanket and an officer brought her some food and water, but nobody offered her medical treatment and Balliet eventually collapsed to the floor.
Nurses pulled the mattress to the floor and put Balliet on it. The complaint alleges one of them exited the cell “smirking and laughing” as Balliet laid on the floor in agony.
Finally around 1:11 p.m. — more than four hours after being placed into the cell — jail staff offered her some over-the-counter pain medicine and began efforts to check her pulse and bloodpressure, according to the complaint.
They subsequently gave her Narcan and oxygen and, when her heart stopped, a shot of epinephrine, but Balliet ultimately died at 2:11 p.m.
The cause of death is believed to be septic shock due to an abscess in her lung.
The complaint names as defendants Luzerne County, Wellpath, Chris Gale, Holly Green, Nelson Iannuzzi, Jade Talarico, T.J. Brown, William Wilk, licensed practical nurse Diane Emmett,Correctional Officer Robert Calvey, Lt. Kate Romiski, Correctional Officer William Wilk, CheriSteever, Carleen Kendig, Donald Fuller, Nancy Somers and Shana Feichter.
Balliet’s father, William Balliet, alleges denial of medical care among other violations and isseeking unspecified damages to be determined at trial.
Acting county Manager Brian Swetz did not immediately return a message seeking comment onthe lawsuit Monday.