Court says KU Hospital on hook for injured hip

By The Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 29, 2014 at 12:21 p.m.

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LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Hospital must pick up the $140,000 tab to treat the injuries of a man who broke his hip after jumping out of a window at a county jail, the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled.

Alberto Contreras Gonzalez was arrested by the Kansas Highway Patrol in March 2006 on state drug-related charges, The Lawrence Journal-World ( ) reported. While awaiting trial, an agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a 48-hour hold on his release to give the agency time "to assume custody."

ICE didn't take Contreras into custody, though, and on March 21, 2006, he entered into a diversion agreement with Wabaunsee County, which generally means charges are dropped if the person agrees to certain stipulations. He was later transferred to Shawnee County for outstanding warrants. A copy of the ICE document to detain him was sent with him.

Contreras bonded out of Shawnee County on April 5 and returned to the Wabaunsee County jail that evening to retrieve some personal belongings.

A sheriff's deputy took him to a room in the jail normally used for taking fingerprints and supervised visits and told him to wait while the deputy figured out what was going on. The Supreme Court noted in its ruling Friday that Contreras was not arrested or taken into custody.

The door to the room was not locked, but the door knob turned in the opposite direction of most door knobs. Video from a security camera in the room showed Contreras tried unsuccessfully to open the door. Afterward, he picked up a chair and broke out a window before jumping to the ground from the fourth-floor room, breaking his hip.

When he was flown to KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas, a copy of the ICE detainer again was sent with him.

The court said Contreras was not under arrest or under guard when he was in the hospital, and "ICE had no interest in Contreras after he was released from the hospital."

KU Hospital tried to bill Wabaunsee County for the $140,000 it cost to treat Contreras, but the Supreme Court said the county is responsible only for medical bills of inmates or people being held in the county's custody.

The hospital argued that it provided a service to the county by treating Contreras, and thus the county should pay for that service.

The court said the service was provided to Contreras, not the county. And because Contreras was not legally in the county's custody at the time of the incident, the county had no obligation to pay.

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