Husband settles death lawsuit against jail

Steve Garrison
The San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington is pictured in April 2015.

FARMINGTON – Johnnie Burton has settled a lawsuit he filed after the death of his wife in September 2012 at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

Burton received $45,000 to dismiss all claims against San Juan County, the detention center and several detention center employees. He also settled claims against the detention center's former contracted medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies, for an undisclosed sum.

Matilda Burton died shortly after midnight on Sept. 23, 2012, after suffering a severe heart attack at the jail. She was being held at the jail on charges of aggravated drunken driving, a second offense, and speeding.

Johnnie Burton alleged in a civil complaint filed Sept. 26, 2014, that the jail and Correctional Healthcare Companies provided negligent medical care to his wife during the two weeks she was incarcerated.

He further alleged in the lawsuit that he was denied contact with his wife and was unable to provide her "necessary and life-maintaining medications."

The lawsuit was dismissed Feb. 25.

Attorney Amy Glasser represented the county in the lawsuit. She said Wednesday that the county did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

Johnnie Burton's attorney, Jennifer Yoder, said Wednesday that she was happy the parties were able to reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Yoder said the terms of her client's settlement with Correctional Healthcare Companies were confidential.

The Tucker, Burns Yoder & Hatfield law firm is representing three other families who claim their loved ones died from preventable illnesses last spring while incarcerated at the detention center.

Correctional Healthcare Companies broke its $1.5 million contract with the county in February 2014 after the company determined it could not continue to provide medical services at the jail at the agreed-upon rate.

San Juan Regional Medical Center and Presbyterian Medical Services are currently contracted to provide medical and mental health services at the jail.

Yoder said the circumstances that led to Matilda Burton's death were different than the three deaths at the jail last spring, but the precedent was important.

"I hope, for the sake of our clients and those incarcerated, that notice is being made of what occurred here," Yoder said.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.