LIHUE — The family of a woman who committed suicide in a jail cell by eating a metallic thermal blanket is suing the County of Kauai for negligence.
According to a civil complaint filed in Fifth Circuit Court Friday, Leslie Lutao was arrested on July 30, 2017, placed in a holding cell at the Kauai Police Department headquarters in Lihue, and given the metallic blanket she later used to commit suicide.
Police officers gave Leslie Lutao a metallic blanket, “with which she first attempted to strangle herself; then she attempted to suffocate herself by wrapping the blanket around her head; then she ate pieces of the blanket and finally passed out. The blanket blocked her airway and she died of asphyxiation.”
The complaint says KPD officers ignored the video feed of Lutao’s cell for 40 minutes, during which time she survived two suicide attempts before ultimately killing herself.
According to the lawsuit, the monitor showing Lutao in the holding cell “was ignored during the 40 minutes that it took for her to commit suicide,” and the woman’s dead body was not discovered “until more than an hour after she passed out as a result of the continued failure of police officers to view the monitor.”
The lawsuit alleges the county is responsible for Lutao’s death due to the negligence of KPD officers, who gave her the metallic blanket, did not monitor her activity, and then failed to “summon reasonable and appropriate emergency medical care and transportation for her.”
Lutao suffered “great physical and conscious mental pain, suffering, fear, shock, agony and severe emotional and physical distress prior to her death,” the lawsuit says, claiming the county is responsible for compensating her surviving family members — a husband and four children — for “permanent loss of enjoyment of life and the inability to pursue normal activities.”
The suit also asks that the county pay for Lutao’s medical, funeral and burial expenses, as well as any future salary she would have earned had her life not been cut short.