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Ross woman says jail neglect caused her to lose lower left arm

| Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, 3:27 p.m.

Excessive police force and poor medical treatment during her incarceration caused a Ross woman to lose her lower left arm, she claims in a federal lawsuit filed on Monday.

“The injury started it and then she wasn't given adequate treatment in the Allegheny County Jail,” said Marvin Leibowitz, the lawyer for Amy J. Needham.

County spokeswoman Amie Downs declined comment.

Needham, 35, says in the lawsuit that five Allegheny County sheriff's deputies, Lt. John Kearney and Detective Jared Kulik broke down her bathroom door on April 2. During the arrest, Kearney twice shocked her with a Taser, Kulik applied arm bars and wrist locks and someone put handcuffs on too tightly, the lawsuit says.

The excessive force injured her upper left arm, cutting off blood flow to her lower arm, the lawsuit says.

Needham developed a staph infection in jail and medical staff denied her request to see a doctor 16 times, the lawsuit says. She was eventually hospitalized at UPMC Mercy, where doctors amputated her arm, the lawsuit says.

Needham is suing Kearney, Kulik, the county and Allegheny Correctional Health Services, a nonprofit agency set up by the county Health Department that formerly treated inmates at the jail. The county switched to another provider this fall.

Deputies arrested Needham on a bench warrant because she failed to appear for a preliminary hearing on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest and a summary offense of disorderly conduct, Leibowitz said.

Needham pleaded guilty in August to the disorderly conduct charge. The other charge was dropped and she wasn't sentenced to any punishment, court documents show.

On charges from the arrest, Needham pleaded guilty this month to two counts of simple assault and one count of resisting arrest and was sentenced to nine months of probation, according to court records.

Brian Bowling is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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