Mother of Skye Martin suing over daughter's 'wrongful death' in custody

The mother of a woman who died while incarcerated in Clarenville has filed a lawsuit claiming the provincial government, prison officials, and Dr. David Craig are negligent in her daughter's death.

Natasha Martin's lawyer Jerome Kennedy filed a statement of claim at Supreme Court in St. John's on Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges negligence, abuse of public office, breach of fiduciary duty, intentional or negligent infliction of emotional and mental suffering, and false imprisonment.

The statement of claim contends that Skye Martin's Charter right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment was breached.

It seeks an array of damages, and highlights the impact on Skye Martin's 11-year-old daughter.

"Natasha and [Skye's daughter] enjoyed a close and loving relationship with Skye and have suffered the loss of Skye's care, guidance and companionship as a result of her wrongful death," the court documents note.

The staff members ... failed to respond in a proper and timely manner when Ms. Martin was frantically kicking the cell door. - Natasha Martin's Statement of Claim

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Justice Minister Andrew Parsons said "this has been a very difficult time for the family and friends" of Skye Martin, and expressed his condolences.

"Out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved, and because this is now before the courts, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specifics of this case," Parsons said.

Dr. Craig did not immediately return an emailed message from CBC News.

The allegations in the lawsuit have yet to be tested in court.

History of self-harm

The court documents shed more light on the death of 27-year-old Skye Martin.

On April 21, 2018, correctional officers discovered Martin, with lips blue, choking on a sandwich wrap she had forced down her throat.

The statement of claim, which references a report completed by retired police superintendent Marlene Jesso, said those officers did not realize the seriousness of the situation until it was too late. 

Submitted by Natasha Martin

"The staff members at the (Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women) failed to respond in a proper and timely manner when Ms. Martin was frantically kicking the cell door," the lawsuit alleges.

"This failure to respond was aggravated by the failure to immediately administer CPR and attempting to remove the obstruction from Ms. Martin's airway, which could have saved Skye's life. These failures and delays caused, and/or contributed, to Ms. Martin's death."

The lawsuit largely focuses on what was, or was not, done for Martin during her time at the Clarenville facility.

Taken off medication before death

Martin had a lengthy history with the mental health and justice system and was known to harm herself, the lawsuit alleges. 

The statement of claim said that Martin was taken off her medication by Dr. Craig, who provided psychiatric services to the facility. She had been previously prescribed those drugs at the Waterford Hospital by Dr. Nizar Ladha, after Ladha had diagnosed her with bipolar disorder and ADHD.

submitted

The lawsuit alleges that the use of confinement coupled with a lack of medication is what led to Martin's death. 

It also points blame at staff, who the claim says failed to supervise the segregation cell despite it being on video surveillance. 

Natasha Martin claims her only daughter's death was preventable had she been provided with proper psychiatric and medical care.

"It was foreseeable that the first and second defendant's use of segregation was grossly disproportionate to what was fit in the circumstances and would shock the conscience of Canadians and warrant an award of damages," the lawsuit notes.

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador