The family of a San Quentin State Prison inmate who died of complications due to COVID-19 filed a wrongful death claim against the California correctional facility on Thursday, claiming that a mishandled transfer of infected prisoners led to the man’s death.
Daniel Ruiz, 61, is one of 27 inmates and employees who died of coronavirus-related complications after California’s oldest prison took in 121 transfers from the California Institution for Men in Chino, which has become a coronavirus hotspot.
Civil rights attorneys for Ruiz’s three children and his mother filed a legal claim Thursday as a precursor to a lawsuit accusing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) of wrongful and unconstitutional death.
“The folks in our prisons are human beings. Many who died at San Quentin had done nonviolent crimes and should have been coming back to their families soon,” Ruiz family attorney Michael Haddad told the Los Angeles Times. “It is tragic and unacceptable that some prison bureaucrats treated them as less than human.”
As of Saturday, the CDCR reported that a total of 2,237 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The prison reported no positive cases prior to the May 30 transfer.
Haddad said in the claim that Ruiz was serving time at San Quentin for a low-level drug offense, and that he had been notified in March that he was eligible for early release due to good behavior.
Ruiz died on July 11, and was included among the 40,000 high-risk inmates housed in California prisons because of asthma and other health issues.
During a July state Senate hearing, a court-appointed receiver overseeing medical care at California prisons said that three or four weeks had passed since some of the May 30 transfers had been tested.
The California Department of Public Health on Friday reported 3,326 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, with California now at a total of 746,191 positive cases.