Trending Topics

Lawsuit: Diabetic CO died because supervisors wouldn’t let him take break to check blood levels

The lawsuit said Cuyahoga County ignored requests the CO made for breaks to check his blood, as well as appeals to avoid working past his regular, 12-hour shift


Aerial of Cuyahoga County Jail and Justice Center

John Pana/TNS

By Adam Ferrise

CLEVELAND, Ohio— A diabetic Cuyahoga County Jail officer died because his supervisors refused let him take a break to check his blood-sugar levels during a forced 16-hour shift, a lawsuit filed on Friday said.

Warren Johnson died July 3, 2022, about two weeks after he was rushed from the jail to University Hospitals with a glucose level of more than five times the normal level.

The lawsuit said the county ignored numerous requests Johnson made for breaks to check his blood, as well as appeals to avoid working past his regular, 12-hour shift.

Cuyahoga County spokeswoman Jennifer Ciaccia said the county does not comment on pending litigation.

Johnson, 45, was survived by his two children and his wife, Shakira Johnson, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of her husband’s estate.

The wrongful death lawsuit accuses the county of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The county hired Johnson in February 2019. He had Type-2 diabetes and was twice sent to the hospital from the jail for medical issues.

In 2021, county officials allowed him to work 12-hour shifts and avoid the extra four hours that corrections officers are forced to work if the jail is short-staffed. They also allowed him to take three breaks per shift to monitor his glucose levels, the lawsuit said.

County officials in May 2022, however, rescinded that accommodation, the lawsuit said. Johnson “begged” the county to reinstate it.

As his doctor was preparing paperwork for the county to review, the county disciplined Johnson for refusing to work longer than 12 hours.

Johnson on June 2 emailed a county human resources employee asking what he should do when he returned to work, saying he didn’t want to violate the rules, but he was unsure what to do if he was asked to work another 16-hour shift.

A week later, he sent another email that said: “I have not been provided with any breaks to check my blood sugar during my shifts other than my lunch break. I need to know what can be done to ensure I get my breaks according to my Drs instructions because I have been sent to the hospital multiple times in the past because I wasn’t able to check my blood sugar.”

Five days after the email, Johnson was working his shift when he became lightheaded. An ambulance took him to University Hospitals.

On June 16, the county denied his request to work only 12-hour shifts, but it allowed him three breaks per day, the lawsuit said.

Three days later, Johnson’s supervisors denied him two of his three breaks. They only allowed one that came four hours after he was supposed to get his first break, the lawsuit said.

About 5:15 p.m., he went to the jail nurse, who tested his glucose level at five times the normal level. An ambulance took him again to University Hospitals.

Johnson was released from the hospital on June 21, and re-admitted two more times the following week, including on June 29 after suffering a stroke. He died four days later.

“According to both a retained medical expert and an independent neurologist contracted by the State of Ohio, the lack of breaks adequate to measure and maintain his blood glucose levels started a cascade of events that ultimately resulted in Mr. Johnson’s death,” the lawsuit said.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.