Family of UC Berkeley alumnus Bertram Hiscock settles lawsuit against Yuba, Sutter counties for $1M

hiscock_BertramHiscock_courtesy
Bertram Hiscock/Courtesy

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The family of Bertram Hiscock — a UC Berkeley alumus who died in Yuba County Jail in January 2017 — has reached a $1 million settlement in the lawsuit brought against Yuba and Sutter counties over Hiscock’s death.

The settlement follows legal action taken against the counties over Hiscock’s suicide in custody Jan. 29, 2017. The lawsuit said he had attempted suicide twice before his death. Instead of providing him treatment, the jail placed him in solitary confinement, according to the suit.

The family filed the suit in federal court in December 2017, alleging that the jail had not taken sufficient action to prevent Hiscock’s death, such as providing adequate mental health treatment. It accused the counties of violating Hiscock’s rights under the First and 14th amendments leading up to his death.

“By failing to provide minimally adequate and necessary mental health treatment and subjecting Mr. Hiscock to isolated and anti-therapeutic conditions, Defendants severely exacerbated Mr. Hiscock’s mental illness, resulting in his unnecessary pain and suffering, and, ultimately, untimely death,” the lawsuit alleged.

Hiscock suffered from Type 1 bipolar disorder, according to the lawsuit, and had repeated psychotic episodes for which he had been hospitalized multiple times before his arrest. In November 2016, Hiscock was taken into Yuba County Jail for allegedly putting his mother in a chokehold. His mother, the suit said, asked that he be placed in psychiatric care instead of jail.

According to an Oct. 30 press release from the family’s attorney Lori Rifkin, the settlement requires Yuba and Sutter counties each to pay $500,000.

“Hiscock’s family was close to him, and they are still struggling to cope with this loss,” Rifkin said.

Sophia Brown-Heidenreich is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sophiabrownh.