Lawsuit against officials over inmate death dismissed

FONDA – A United States District Court Judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the mother of a deceased Montgomery County Jail inmate, which claimed that jail officials were responsible for the death of the inmate through malpractice.

According to court documents, Judge Thomas J. McAvoy dismissed the lawsuit between Theresa Vandermark and Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and Montgomery County Jail officials on Feb. 19.

According to his decision, McAvoy dismissed the lawsuit because Vandermark lacked legal council. Attorney Elmer R. Keach III, Esq. served as Vandermark’s council originally. However, in July 2013, the court issued an order granting Keach leave to withdraw as Vandermark’s attorney of record.

Vandermark, according to court documents, was encouraged to get new counsel. However, by October, the court claimed no indication was provided substitute counsel would be appearing, according to court documents.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit were Montgomery County Sheriff and Undersheriff Michael Amato and Jeffery Smith, Jail Administrator Michael Franco, and Dr. Karen Tan.

Vandermark filed suits in federal and state courts in January 2011 alleging jail officials ignored the complaints of her son, James P. Vandermark, 27, about a sinus condition that was left untreated and eventually caused his death Oct. 27, 2009. The amended lawsuit, filed Oct. 13, includes allegations that Dr. Karen Tan, an ear, nose and throat specialist with an office on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam, did not order a biopsy on a growth on Vandermark’s face and “otherwise failed to timely diagnose Mr. Vandermark’s condition.”

Tan first treated Vandermark Aug. 11, 2009, two months after Vandermark was jailed. Tan immediately ordered a CT scan to determine the origin of the growth on Vandermark’s face, but jail officials did not schedule the scan until Tan ordered it again during another examination Sept. 29, 2009, the lawsuit said.

Vandermark received the scan a week later but was rushed to the hospital Oct. 22, 2009, before he could see the results, according to the original suit. He was later declared brain dead.

The original lawsuit states Amato discharged Vandermark from county custody just before his death, leaving Vandermark’s mother with a bill for “tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses.”

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