Lawsuit: Death of man in Salt Lake County jail was preventable

Mar 5, 2024, 8:13 AM | Updated: 12:05 pm

salt lake county jail inmate death...

The Salt Lake County Jail in South Salt Lake is pictured on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. A lawsuit accuses jail workers including a deputy and several nurses of failing to prevent the death of a man in their care in 2022. (Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

(Spenser Heaps/Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — A lawsuit filed this month in Utah’s third district court claims the death of a man while in the custody of the Salt Lake County Metro Jail could have been prevented if only jail officials had provided proper care. 

Leland Cropper was 40 years old when he died on March 8, 2022, five days after being booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail.

“Leland’s death would have been prevented if defendants had called for qualified medical assistance or if the ADC (Salt Lake County Metro Jail) medical staff had even provided basic diagnostic evaluation procedures,” the lawsuit claims. 

The lawsuit names Salt Lake County alongside ten individuals, including Sheriff Rosie Rivera, a deputy, a doctor, several jail nurses, a caseworker and a program manager. 

Jail death of Salt Lake County man came after misdemeanor booking

Cropper faced accusations of driving without registration, driving on a suspended or revoked license, and possession of drug paraphernalia, stemming from American Fork on March 3, 2022. All three charges are misdemeanors under state law. 

According to the lawsuit filed by his wife, Amy Baker, a nurse assessed Cropper at his booking, recording his height as 6 foot 2 inches and his weight as 128 pounds, which would mean his body mass index was 16.4. The Centers for Disease Control considers a BMI under 18.5 to be underweight. That nurse scheduled a follow-up appointment for April 1, 2022, according to the lawsuit. 

The same day, the lawsuit claims a doctor prescribed Cropper promethazine, a drug commonly used to treat allergic reactions but also nausea, motion sickness, and anxiety. Cropper also received a prescription for loperamide, which treats diarrhea. 

“Leland was physically unable, without great difficulty and pain, to leave his cell because of his rapidly deteriorating, life-threatening medical condition, which required close medical observation, evaluation, checking of vital signs, and diagnosis and treatment, or referral for diagnosis and treatment, none of which was provided by defendants,” the lawsuit states.  

Multiple cell checks with no aid, suit claims

Over the next three days, the lawsuit alleges various personnel including jail nurses, a caseworker, and a program manager checked on Cropper without providing or requesting additional aid. Throughout that time, the lawsuit alleges Cropper reported nausea, pain, dehydration and vomiting. 

On March 7, the lawsuit claims a nurse gave Cropper a nutritional drink and weighed him at 112.6 pounds. It was a loss of more than 15 pounds since his intake. 

“Defendants failed and refused to monitor, evaluate, examine or treat Leland and refused to provide or arrange for a competent medical professional to monitor, evaluate, diagnose, examine, provide medical care for Leland,” according to the lawsuit. 

During the night of March 7, the lawsuit claims a deputy observed Cropper lying on the floor of his cell. When he asked him why, the lawsuit alleges Cropper told him he was throwing up, but further claims the deputy did not seek medical attention for Cropper. 

Death of inmate at the Salt Lake County Metro Jail 

Later that night, deputies discovered Cropper unresponsive in his cell. They removed him from the cell and attempted to resuscitate him, the lawsuit claims, but to no avail. South Salt Lake emergency crews declared him dead a short time later, the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit claims the medical examiner determined Cropper’s cause of death to be “the effects of upper gastrointestinal hemorrhage due to peptic ulcer disease,” adding the examination turned up evidence of dehydration, blood in his stomach, swelling in his lungs, and sunken cheeks and eyes. 

Baker’s lawsuit claims jail workers violated Cropper’s rights under the Utah Constitution through negligence and failure to provide adequate medical care. She seeks damages for lost financial support, pain and suffering for herself and the couple’s four children. The suit also seeks punitive damages from all parties except for Salt Lake County and recouped legal fees and costs. Baker asked for a jury trial. 

KSL reached out to Salt Lake County and Metro Jail officials for comment about the death of Leland Cropper and the lawsuit. 

A statement from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office said “due to the pending litigation we are limited in what information we can share about this particular situation.”  

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Lawsuit: Death of man in Salt Lake County jail was preventable