A father of four “bled to death from the inside out” for at least three days in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in 2017 after medical professionals at a New Jersey jail allegedly failed to properly address his pre-existing health concerns.
Carlos Bonilla’s eldest daughter filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Hudson County, Hudson County Correctional Center, private health provider CFG Health Systems, and a number of individuals who treated Bonilla—claiming the parties provided “devastatingly inadequate medical care” to Bonilla while in immigration detention and caused “internal bleeding and hemorrhagic shock.”
A spokesman for Hudson County Correctional Center did not respond to requests for comment. Jeanine Miles, a Director of Business Development & Marketing at CFG Health Systems, said the company wasn’t able to comment due to “pending litigation” but said it provides care “consistent with community standards.”
According to the lawsuit, Bonilla lived in the U.S. for almost 25 years after being born in El Salvador. He owned a construction company with his brother to support his three daughters and son, and was arrested by ICE in April 2017 while at a Long Island construction site. He suffered from a chronic liver disease called cirrhosis and diabetes at the time, and was treated for cirrhosis complications—including gastrointestinal bleeding—prior to his arrest.
When Bonilla arrived at the Hudson County jail, which holds ICE detainees, he underwent an intake examination where Bonilla told the nurse practitioner about his serious liver condition, the lawsuit states. Officials at the jail were allegedly aware of his medical history, but they didn’t give him his prescribed medications.
Two weeks after he was detained, Bonilla suffered a nosebleed—a complication of cirrhosis. Medical professionals also saw Bonilla on multiple sick calls on April 25, May 3, May 11, May 18, and June 7, according to the lawsuit.
While Bonilla was leaving his cell for his bond hearing on June 8, Hudson County Correctional Center allegedly called an emergency code at 4:38 a.m. after he started slurring his speech, stumbling to the floor, and reporting dizziness and diarrhea. He was transferred to Jersey City Medical Center about two hours later, where he was determined to have “blood in his stool, blood clots in his esophagus, abdominal pain” along with “weakness” and “dizziness.”
On June 10, Bonilla died at the hospital at the age of 43 from internal bleeding caused by a “common and manageable complication” of cirrhosis while allegedly “experiencing agonizing pain and suffering.” At the time, two of his children were minors—the youngest of which was eight. According to Marinda van Dalen, a New York Lawyers for the Public Interest attorney on the case, medical records indicated that Bonilla started bleeding internally three days before he died.
“This is a lawsuit about a tragic death a father or four. They don’t have him to parent them and support them,” Van Dalen told The Daily Beast. “It was preventable, he shouldn’t have died… he should have been home in his community with access to proper medical care. He would still be alive if he wasn’t jailed.”
According to The North Jersey Record, the jail terminated its contract last year with its private health provider—CFG Health Systems—after an inmate hung himself in his cell and died in 2018. The death marked the sixth inmate death at the jail in the last nine months.
Van Dalen said the “number of deaths, reports, litigation” against CFG Health Systems was “unusual” but remarked that it was a “typical” issue.
“This facility like many others is not equipped to provide medical care for long periods of time,” she said. “The family brought this lawsuit to hold people accountable for death of father, and for failing to provide adequate medical care.”