Inmate Felix Manus was on work release in 2018 when he had a fatal asthma attack. His estate sued in federal court.
A $1.1 million settlement will end the legal fight between Erie County and the family of a work-release inmate who died in May 2018 after suffering an asthma attack while in the county’s custody.
Notice of the settlement amount was filed Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Erie. A judge still must approve the agreement.
The family of the inmate, 48-year-old Felix L. Manus, filed the civil rights lawsuit in July on behalf of his estate.
The suit claimed that corrections officers delayed calling 911 for medical care when Manus suffered the asthma attack during a work-release shift near Edinboro on May 30, 2018. Manus died at UPMC Hamot on June 11, 2018. Manus was in the Erie County Prison’s work-release program for failure to pay child support.
“Mr. Manus’ children continue to heal and this is part of that process,” the lawyer for the Manus estate, John Mizner, said on Friday. He thanked U.S. District Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, who oversaw a settlement conference between the parties on June 21.
“But for her efforts, I’m not sure we would have been able to resolve the matter,” Mizner said.
The total amount of the settlement is $1,150,000, according to court records.
The lawyer representing Erie County, Patrick Carey, declined to comment. Carey represented the county through its insurance company and said insurance will cover the settlement. The county also declined to comment.
The suit named as defendants Erie County; Joshua Pietras, a corrections officer; and Roger Herrmann, a lieutenant at the prison.
The county and the officers denied responsibility for any injuries or damages to Manus in response to the lawsuit.
But Erie County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper’s administration also changed the county’s inmate transportation policy and disciplined two officers in connection with the case after news of the incident became public.
The lawsuit claimed that Pietras and Herrmann decided to take Manus from his work site in Edinboro to the work-release center at 450 E. 16th St. in Erie, about 30 minutes away, in a transport van before getting medical attention for his asthma attack.
Surveillance videos from the work-release center, which the Erie Times-News received through a Right-to-Know request in June 2018, showed that Manus waited 20 minutes for medical care once he arrived at the work-release center.
Manus’ family has said that he suffered cardiac arrest because of a lack of oxygen and never regained consciousness after the asthma attack.
The suit claimed that Pietras knew Manus was having trouble breathing but still transported Manus to the work-release center in the van. Herrmann was Pietras’ supervisor, according to the complaint, and advised Pietras to return to the work-release center before calling an ambulance.
Erie County later updated its inmate transportation policy to require officers to call 911 first and await medical assistance if an inmate becomes ill.
The Erie County District Attorney’s Office announced it would not file criminal charges after a review of the case in September.
The county never named the two corrections officers it said were disciplined in connection with the incident. Neither officer was fired or demoted, according to information the county provided to the Erie Times-News in response to another Right-to-Know request in June 2018.
Madeleine O’Neill can be reached at 870-1728 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ETNoneill.