Lawsuit filed against Nevada County alleges wrongful jail death | TheUnion.com

Lawsuit filed against Nevada County alleges wrongful jail death

Two children of a man who died in the Wayne Brown Correctional Facility have sued the county, claiming that Sheriff Keith Royal and his staff failed to ensure his safety and perform a proper investigation into his death, court records state.

The plaintiffs argue in court filings that sheriff's officials had a duty to protect Joshua Hightower, who died May 27, 2016. Plaintiffs argue they failed in that duty, allowing drugs to enter the jail, and failed to properly supervise Hightower or conduct routine cell checks. After finding Hightower face down and in apparent distress by his bed, the plaintiffs say authorities failed to provide medical assistance.

"Defendants committed these wrongful acts which proximately caused the death of Joshua Hightower," the suits state.

The two lawsuits, filed May 15, ask for compensatory and punitive damages, though they list no specific dollar amount.

"Due to the wrongful actions of Defendants, Plaintiff has lost the care, comfort and companionship of her father Joshua Hightower," one of the suits state.

Contacted about the lawsuit, Royal said legal action is common in jail death cases.

"It's not unusual when you have jail deaths," the sheriff said. "This is a routine issue that you see."

Christina Simkins, mother of the two children who filed the suits on their behalf, couldn't be reached for comment. Amanda Uhrhammer, assistant county counsel, said the county hasn't been formally served the suit. She declined further comment.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.