Allison Jackson, an attorney with Eureka’s Harland Law Firm, has filed a claim for $1.44 million in damages against the county on behalf of her client, Judith Magney. Magney, you may recall, is the elderly woman who fought the county over custody of her dying husband, Dick Magney, back in 2015.
As the Outpost previously reported, Dick Magney had signed an advance directive granting his wife the power to make health care decisions when he was unable to do so. As his health deteriorated in early 2015, his wife Judy and his primary doctor at St. Joseph Hospital wanted him to receive only palliative care. But Deputy County Counsel Blair Angus petitioned the court to grant the county conservatorship of Dick Magney, arguing that it was unclear whether Judy Magney was following her husband’s wishes.
A court battle ensued, and a Humboldt County Superior Court judge issued a temporary order for medical intervention, as requested by the county. But that decision was later overturned by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals, which issued a scathing decision lambasting the county for omitting relevant information, misrepresenting the law and facts of the case and making factual assertions based on “multiple levels of hearsay” and “unsupported by any evidence.”
In an interview this week, Humboldt County Counsel Jeffrey Blanck said he disagreed with the decision and felt the judges “went overboard in their criticism.” He called the ruling “disparaging” and said, “I don’t see the need for that, in this case.”
The county sought to have that decision de-published, to no avail. Now, Allison Jackson is pursuing a tort claim totaling $1.44 million, including nearly $288,000 in court costs and medical expenses (the appellate court already granted Magney court costs) and more than $1.15 million in punitive damages for alleged civil rights violations.
In the claim Jackson accuses the county of numerous offenses including medical battery, false imprisonment, deliberately misleading the court, withholding and manipulating evidence, conspiring to violate civil rights, negligence, elder abuse and more.
In addition to naming the County Counsel’s Office, Adult Protective Services and the Public Guardian Office, Jackson’s claim names nine individual county employees, including Blanck and Angus, alleging that they’re personally responsible for the violations
Blanck said the county has hired outside counsel to deal with the claim, though he used a first person plural pronoun in describing what comes next. “We’ll be analyzing the claim [to] see if we find any merit in any of her allegations,” he said.
The county has 45 days from the date the claim was filed to either deny or accept it, a period that in this case will end May 12. If the county doesn’t respond to the claim it will be denied by default, but Blanck said the county plans on responding. However, he did suggest that it’s unlikely they’ll immediately agree to the full amount.
“The claim was for over $1 million,” Blanck said. “As a general rule it’s not something where we’d say, ‘Fine, we’ll write you a check.’ That’s a lot of money.” County officials will look at how Jackson arrived at the figure she’s requesting and then determine what they think the claim is worth, “if anything,” Blanck said.