Alameda Cty to pay inmate's $237K bill

August 25, 2009 2:27:08 PM PDT
A state appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that Alameda County is on the hook for a $237,000 bill for a prisoner who was taken to a hospital while being transferred from Oakland city jail to the county's Santa Rita jail in Dublin.

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The appeals court on Monday overturned an Alameda County Superior Court judge's ruling that Oakland was responsible for the bill for six weeks spent by Kenneth Denham in the ValleyCare Health System hospital in Pleasanton in 2003.

Denham, who was on probation and parole, was arrested by Oakland police on May 22, 2003, on suspicion of heroin possession and was taken to the city jail.

Five days later, county prosecutors dropped the drug charge but obtained a court order revoking his probation and ordering him returned to the county jail.

Two Oakland police officers transported him to the county jail in Santa Rita, but intake staff there refused to receive him, saying that he was too ill, and the officers then took Denham to the nearby hospital in Pleasanton.

Later, ValleyCare Health System sued both the county and the city to obtain reimbursement for Denham's six-week stay, and Superior Court Judge John Appel found that the city was liable.

But in Monday's ruling, the appeals court said the county was responsible because the probation revocation had made him a county prisoner.

Justice James Marchiano wrote that "a city can hold county prisoners for a short time after their arrests ... without being deemed to have volunteered to care for them."

The court ruling did not disclose the nature of Denham's illness.

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