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Lawsuits & Litigation

Erie County Agrees to Settle Suit Over 2018 Work-Release Inmate Death

— June 24, 2019

A settlement was reached earlier this week, ending a suit between Erie County and the family of a deceased work-release inmate, Felix Manus.

Earlier this week, a settlement was reached in a lawsuit between Erie County and the family of an Erie County work-release inmate, Felix Manus, who suffered a fatal asthma attack back in May 2018. The settlement is now awaiting approval from a judge in U.S. District Court in Erie.

The settlement was announced Friday shortly after members of Manus’ estate and Erie County government officials met with U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter. However, details of the settlement have yet to be released. According to one of the lawyers representing the county, settlement details will become available after the judge officially approves the settlement.

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Law Books; image courtesy of witwiccan via Pixabay,

What happened, though? Why was the suit filed in the first place? Well, the suit, which was filed last July, alleged that “corrections officers delayed calling 911 for emergency medical care when Manus suffered an asthma attack during a work-release shift near Edinboro on May 30, 2018.” His work-release shift entailed working on outdoor tasks, including cutting grass.

Instead of seeking assistance for Manus, the suit argued officers “told Manus he had to return to the work-release center at 450 E. 16th St. in Erie, about 30 minutes away, in a transport van.” Once, there, surveillance videos show he waited “20 minutes for medical care once he arrived at the work-release center.” As a result of the delay in medical care, his family claims Manus “suffered cardiac arrest because of a lack of oxygen and never regained consciousness after the asthma attack.” He died shortly after at UPMC Hamot.

Erie County, Joshua Pietras, a corrections officer, and Roger Herrmann, a lieutenant at the prison, are all named as defendants in the suit. According to Manus’ family, Pietras “knew Manus was having trouble breathing but still transported Manus to the work-release center in the van.” Pietras was instructed by his supervisor, Herrmann, to return Manus to the “work-release center before calling an ambulance.”

The County and officers pushed back against the allegations in the suit, though, and argued they weren’t responsible for the asthma attack or any of the injuries or damages Manus sustained because of it. The defendants also pointed out that Manus “signed up to perform labor at the worksite on the day of his asthma attack.”

The suit was filed by members of Manus’ family, including Bryhanna Manus, Felix Manus’ daughter, and Amanda Tucholski, his longtime girlfriend. In total, the plaintiff’s originally sought unspecified damages in excess of $75,000.

Since the fatal incident, Erie County has adjusted its policies regarding inmate transportation. For example, the previous policy didn’t allow “corrections officers to call 911 if a medical emergency occurred during transport.” However, under the new policy, “officers must call 911 first and await medical assistance if an inmate becomes ill.”


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