Trial Date Set for Dartmouth Jail Wrongful Death Suit
DARTMOUTH — The family of an inmate who committed suicide at the Bristol County House of Correction in Dartmouth nearly seven years ago will finally get their day in court.
At a hearing last week, a trial date of Jan. 23, 2023 was set for a wrongful death lawsuit in connection to the May 2015 death of 32-year-old Brandon St. Pierre.
The lawsuit was filed by Barbara Kice, St. Pierre's mother, in Bristol Superior Court in 2018 against Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, Corrections Officer Dylan Bedard, two other unnamed staffers, and the office itself.
It alleges that despite a court order designating St. Pierre as suicidal, Bristol County Sheriff's Office authorities showed "deliberate indifference" to his health and safety, leading to his death — allegations that the office denies in other court documents.
St. Pierre had been held as a pre-trial detainee at the jail since late April 2015.
According to the complaint, on May 5, he told a doctor that he intended to commit suicide unless he was moved from the Dartmouth jail, detailing possible methods.
The doctor wrote in a report that he believed St. Pierre was sincere and "should be taken seriously," the complaint noted.
St. Pierre was designated by the court as a suicide risk that same day.
A facility nurse had also ordered a mental health evaluation for the inmate on May 4 due to a number of risk factors, including a prior suicide attempt at the same jail on May 6, 2008, according to court documents.
The complaint alleges that the staff at the sheriff's office "were aware, or ought to have been aware," that St. Pierre was suicidal.
It notes that he was placed alone in a cell in the segregation unit on May 6, where staff regularly checked on him every thirty minutes — although facility policies require irregular intervals, the complaint alleged.
For those deemed to be at risk of suicide, court documents note, policies require a check every 15 minutes at minimum.
At around 4 p.m. on May 6, Bedard found St. Pierre hanging in his cell.
Earlier that morning, the court had approved moving St. Pierre to a different correctional facility, according to the complaint.
Lawyers for the sheriff's office argue that office employees have qualified immunity from litigation while acting in their capacity as government workers.
The office also denied that the office or its employees were negligent leading up to St. Pierre's suicide, or that they violated his civil rights, both claims made in the complaint.
"St. Pierre's death, while undeniably tragic, cannot serve as the basis for these claims," the defense stated.
A Bristol County Sheriff's Office spokesperson noted that the office does not comment on pending court cases.
The trial date was set for next January due to a current backlog in court, according to Kice's attorney.