County to pay $3M to family of inmate who died in custody

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SAN DIEGO – The family of a Vista inmate who died in 2011 while serving time was awarded $3 million Monday in a civil rights lawsuit against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

The jury found the law enforcement agency guilty of violating 21-year-old Daniel Sission's rights when he died in his cell at the Vista Detention Facility on June 25, 2011 after suffering an asthma attack.

Sisson suffered from a heroin addiction caused by the struggles of dealing with an arthritic disease called Reiter’s syndrome.  The addiction landed Sisson in jail, according to his mother Shaunda Brummet.

According to the family’s attorney Chris Morris, the lawsuit was filed against the department for being deliberately indifferent to a medical need and failing to follow standard of care.

Video released of Vista inmate who died in custody

"I'm hopeful the verdict will send a message to the county and sheriff's department to change. You should not have people dying in jail," Morris said. “They have an affirmative duty under their policies and procedures in the state law to do hourly safety checks. He was supposed to be monitored.”

The County Counsel spokesman Michael Workman released a statement following the verdict:

“We are disappointed and will be discussing the verdict and evaluating possible next steps with our clients."


  • scott

    This is BS!! He was a heroin addict and because his parents raised a crack head they should be rewarded by being made millionaires? If he wasn’t sticking needles in his arm he wouldn’t have been in jail and would still be alive.

  • CMB

    My father is a San Diego County Sheriff and I have great respect for law enforcement officers. That being said, Scott your comments are ignorant and you clearly do not know the details of this case. The county failed miserably to do even the bare minimum for Daniel. His addiction to heroin was not happenstance. He suffered from a horribly painful disease and the doctor’s could no longer keep his pain at bay with just prescription drugs. Granted Daniel chose to mask the pain with heroine, but the staff at the Vista County Jail’s lack of attention to this kid going through withdrawals from a powerful drug and who was suffering from the symptoms of asthma and Reiter’s syndrome is what killed him.

    I hope you never lose a child. This family’s grief is real and their loss a tragic one. Rest in Peace Daniel.

      • CMB

        I do know the details of the case, quite well actually. I would not have commented if I didnt. I’m hopeful that SD County policies regarding the monitoring of drug addicts while in jail is addressed and changes made. People who suffer from addictions are still human and their lives valuable no matter the poor choices they have made.

        • scott

          (CMB) I’m glad you qualified your expertise with pointing out your dad is a sheriff. That must qualify your expert testimony. I have read the details of this case. I do agree that sheriff made some mistakes. The problem I have is that his parents are receiving 3 million dollars. Yes he had a disease but stating that he had to turn to heroin because he had no other options is crazy. For the person that commented about me not knowing about dealing with pain, I do deal with pain every day as I am a disabled vetran. I don’t turn to street drugs and if I were to turn to street drugs and end up in jail it would be my decision. If as an adult (above the age of 18) I ended up dead because of this choice I made that put me in Jail/prison I don’t believe tax payers should have to pay my parents because of my life choices. If I was a juvenile I would think something else. Also to state that the parents were not looking to cash in on this I’m sure the money will be all donated to charity and not spent on themselves. To me it sounds like there are two sets of people commenting on this. People that new this person that feel like his parents were justified. And tax payers that don’t believe a drug addicts parents should be rewarded for raising such an outstanding member of society.

  • Scott

    Wow Scott you seem really informed? First off this young man was suffering from a painful disease. He was not shooting heroin, he was using medications prescribed by a doctor to be able to deal with his painful disease. Second when he was arrested the police and sheriff’s department assume all responsibity to protect that inmate whether from themselves or other inmates. They obviously did not do that and a judge reviewed their actions and found that they could have prevented this death from happening but acted in a way that contributed to the death and thus the family should be compensated for the lose of their son. Scott I hope one day someone you love or yourself is injured where they must take medications just to be able to live without being in pain every moment of their life. You know nothing about this young man, his condition or the lack of supervision that could have prevented his death. Come back and comment when you actually have a intelligent comment ortherwise sit in your depressing narrow minded world and pass judgement on all the stupid craps coming out of your mouth. Good day you worthless excuse for a judgemental uninformed POS.

  • Mark K

    This is atrocious. The family obviously wanted to profit off of their drug addict son’s death. If they weren’t about money, they would’ve sued to have the officials lose their jobs. Money hungry despicable people.

    • CMB

      Mark B- You clearly don’t know how the legal system works. Atrocious is the fact that these parents lost their only child due to failures on the part of the County to properly train their employees and for allowing violation after violation of inmates civil rights. Atrocious is the fact that Daniel Sisson’s dead body was not discovered for almost 6 hours. Atrocious is the fact that you seriously think that this family had $$ on their mind after losing their only child. Do you really believe that any amount of money will soothe their heartache? Clearly they were hoping that their sons case would set a precedence and would require reform on the part of the Sherrif’s department.

      • Jacob

        I would contend that the family lost their only son because he chose to self medicate to treat his disease and became addicted to heroin. Root cause. Dying while detoxing in jail was the outcome of a lot of poor decisions made long before he got there. What happened to personal responsibility? Why is it the county’s job to hold the hand of a lying detoxing junkie who doesn’t want the treatments they offer in the first place? If the family wanted him to have 24hr care in a safe facility then jail was clearly the wrong choice.

  • Jacob

    Let’s take a objective look. Man decides to self medicate to treat his disease. Family stands by and allows it rather than intervening. Man becomes a junkie in with a history of time in jail. Man and family still do not follow appropriate treatment for addiction of original disease. Man gets arrested. Man lies, again, because he wants to choose which drugs he takes rather than appropriate medical treatment. Family actually states that maybe jail is a good safe place for man. Hence releasing themselves of any and all personal responsibility and turning care over to the states. Because jail is safe place. Man dies in jail, now none of the 21 years of personal decisions that put him in jail as a detoxing junkie have any bearing. Rather He is now a martyr for the cause of government care cradle to grave and his parents innocent victims. Because…. Clearly it is the county that should be solely responsible for mans health and we’ll being. Family chooses to sue for mass sum of cash. Fellow residents and neighbors now responsible for financial windfall to junkie’s family.
    Only in California. I think I may be in need of some anti- nausea medication after reading about this story.

    • Susan Perry

      Jacob, Mark and Scott, This was a great kid who was loved by many. He was a wonderful soul. His parents are kind and giving and did help him in many ways but how would you you know any of that? If they could get their son back they would be overjoyed to give back every penny!! They have been suffering with no answers and coverups for three years. Daniel died because the sheriffs did not give him his inhaler they ignored the cries for help. Your ignorant comments are so uncalled for! You come from a bad place a and I can say that boy had way more heart and soul then any of you three! The parents deserve to be compensated for the anguish they have been put through. I know the whole story by the way. The truth!!

      • scott

        Yes Susan great kids often self medicate with Heroin. Daniel died because he was in jail for doing something illegal. If he hadn’t been doing something illegal he wouldn’t have been in jail. He wouldn’t have needed his inhaler, and he wouldn’t be dead. Please tell me why his parents deserve 3 million dollars. A veteran that gets killed serving his country gets $750,000.00 for his dependents. This guy who was of age so no longer a dependent does Heroin and gets a 3 million dollar pay out to his family. Please justify this and tell me what a terrible person I am for not thinking the system owes these people a dime. I do believe is disciplining the Sheriff and all involved in his death but paying his family is uncalled for.

      • Jacob

        I regret that you last someone you clearly care about. However, I really do but I fail to have any sympathy in this at all. I am fine with where i come from. I come from a place where families don’t think jail is a solution for addiction and leave guards to provide a ‘safe place’ for their kind hearted little boy. I come from a places where people take personal responsibility for their actions. A place where they don’t sue their community to draw attention to what? That our jails are over crowded and staffed by people who are not equipped to handle serving as a personal detox center when a junkies parents elect to check out?
        What does seeing prove? You are right, it won’t bring their kid back and it plays a petty blame game. If they act like responsible people and the kid doesn’t self medicate with heroin this never happens. The only victims are the tax payers of this county dealing with a bunch of human failures.

  • Ryan

    i see all these people posting how wonderful this kid was. Fact is, he was a junkie, the parents obviously didn’t want to blame themselves for his drug use, or the fact that it killed him, so their prayers were answered when he died in jail, they were able to pass the blame onto the county for their mistakes. And yes, the actions of children and young adults has everything to do with their upbringing. If kids are raised right, they don’t become drug addicts. I’m sure plenty of people will reply with how wonderful of a person this kid was and how wonderful and caring the parents were, but if all that was true, this wouldn’t have happened. My cousin has the same disease, and has never turned to street drugs, neither has anyone in his support groups. The kid was a junkie plain and simple.

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