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New York Mother Files Wrongful Death Claim After Son Dies in Buffalo Holding Center

— June 14, 2023

The lawsuit claims that Erie County corrections officials failed to take the precautions necessary to mitigate Sean Riordan’s acute alcohol withdrawal, leading to his death in June.

The mother of an inmate who died at the Erie County Holding Center in Buffalo, New York, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Erie County, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, and several corrections officers allegedly involved in the incident.

According to 2-WGRZ, the complaint was filed by Christine Riordan on behalf of the estate of the late Sean Riordan.

In their lawsuit, attorneys for Riordan and her deceased son’s estate say that Sean Riordan suffered a serious cardiac arrest while detained in the Erie County Holding Center.

Riordan and her attorneys claim that the heart attack was the result of a “lack of adequate medical attention, care, and treatment and/or unlawful force.”

Sean Riordan, adds 2-WGRZ, was detained in the county holding center when he began experiencing the symptoms of an impending cardiac arrest.

Image via Rennett Stowe/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons. (CCA-BY-2.0)

“Medics found Sean Riordan laying unresponsive on a mattress on the floor of the health center,” the lawsuit alleges. “His body was cold to the touch, his skin was mottled and blue.”

“The medics went to extraordinary means to save him, placed him on a stretcher, intubated him, and rushed him to the emergency room,” the complaint states.

However, Riordan was declared clinically dead upon arrival. He was taken off life support about one week after being admitted to the hospital.

“By depriving people in its custody of adequate medical care, Erie County and the Sherriff have become the judge, jury, and executioner for detainees in its custody. Sean Riordan was charged with a minor traffic violation and did not deserve to be sentenced to death by medical neglect,” said Melissa Wischerath, an attorney representing the Riordan family and estate.

“We are supposed to trust jail systems to keep people alive and safe, so they can have their day in Court while awaiting a trial,” she added.

However, Erie County Sheriff John Garcia has since said that Riordan’s cause of death was determined to be “chronic ethanolism,” more commonly known as alcohol use disorder.

“I anticipate that the full facts and circumstances of Sean Riordan’s death will come to light during the impending proceedings,” Garcia said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the Erie County Medical Examiner found that holding center staff had not taken “adequate” measures to treat and mitigate Riordan’s alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Alcohol withdrawal, unlike many other types of substance withdrawal, can be fatal without proper treatment.

While the Erie County Medical Examiner’s office did not find that Riordan’s death constituted “criminal neglect,” the examiner did recommend that the holding center needed “intensive education and training of corrections staff in recognizing the signs and symptoms of acute ethanol withdrawal.”


Man suffered 4 days as jail staff watched, lawsuit says. He died on his 30th birthday Read more at:

Mother files lawsuit against Erie County, Sheriff after son’s death while in police custody

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