Estate suing city: Suit: Jail led to inmate’s death

Published 9:48 am Friday, February 19, 2016

The family of a man who died in Bogalusa police custody is suing the chief of police, the city jail warden, the mayor, the city’s insurance company and other unknown jail and police employees.

The suit was filed Jan. 23 in district court in New Orleans. None of the defendants have been served yet.

The plaintiffs are Donna Mahl Rombach, and the estate of Gregory Rombach, who are suing on behalf of a minor. The Rombachs are being represented by David Whitmore and Lawrence Jones.

Jones declined to comment on the lawsuit, as it is ongoing.

According to the complaint, Gregory was a resident of St. Tammany Parish and he died on July 9, 2015 due to a “perforated duodenal ulcer due to lack of care while in Bogalusa City Jail.”

According to the Bogalusa Police Department, Gregory was arrested on July 6, 2015 for theft of goods under $500 and failure to appear.

The complaint alleges that several days after Gregory was arrested, he complained of pain and asked for medical help. A jail employee, who is listed as “John Doe,” allegedly ignored the request.

The complaint states, “On July 7, 2015, Gregory Rombach became ill while lying on the concrete floor of the Bogalusa City Jail, with symptoms including but not limited to nausea and vomiting blood. Gregory Rombach complained of being in pain but was told he was just detoxing by John Doe Police Officer, who refused to provide him medical attention.

“Gregory Rombach was allowed to make no calls and received no medical attention despite he and fellow inmates begging that he be helped. On July 9, 2015, Gregory Rombach was found dead in his cell.”

The complaint alleges constitutional violations, as well as violations of state law when the jail workers allegedly refused to provide medical care for Gregory, allowed him to suffer and knowingly punished him in a cruel and/or unusual way.

In addition, the suit alleges the Mayor Wendy Perrette, Chief Joe Culpepper and warden Scott Adams are at fault for poor hiring and training practices.

According to the suit, the three have, “a custom, policy, practice and procedure of negligently and inadequately hiring, training, supervising and retaining deputy sheriffs, particularly defendants herein … respective to responding to detainees and/or other persons in their care and custody with physical complaints and/or in need of medical care. Said negligent and inadequate hiring, training, supervision and retention of said defendants gave rise to the constitutional and statutory violations set forth herein.”

The defendants are seeking punitive damages, though no amount is mentioned.

Perrette said she could not comment.

“I can’t say anything other than it’s unfortunate circumstances, but I can’t make a remark at this time as it is pending litigation,” she said.

Culpepper also declined to comment.