Frausto v. Department of the California Highway PatrolAnnotate this Case
Cornejo died of a methamphetamine overdose at Highland Hospital after being arrested by California Highway Patrol officers during a traffic stop and observed to put in his mouth and swallow something that he insisted was gum, not drugs. Cornejo declined repeated offers of medical attention and no symptoms of drug intoxication were observed until after he was transferred to the custody of deputies at the jail.
A jury ruled in favor of Cornejo’s parents in a suit for wrongful death predicated on the negligence of the officers who took Cornejo to jail rather than to the hospital, under the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act (Civ. Code, 52.1). The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting the defendants’ arguments that the officers had no duty to obtain a medical examination for Cornejo under the circumstances; that they fulfilled the scope of any duty they may have had by taking him to jail with on-site medical staff; that their failure to take him to the hospital was not a proximate cause of his death; and that the trial court erred in ruling the jury could not consider Cornejo’s intentional act of swallowing the methamphetamine in allocating comparative fault and in denying defendants’ motion to exclude evidence that the officers attempted to coerce an admission to possession of a controlled substance by conditioning medical treatment on Cornejo’s admitting he swallowed a controlled substance.