USA Agrees to Pay $5.75 Million to the Family of a 33 Year-Old Army Veteran Who Died by Suicide at the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center

The family of Sgt. Brieux Dash has reached a historic settlement for $5,750,000 in their wrongful death lawsuit against the United States of America based on the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center's negligent failure to prevent Sgt. Dash's death by suicide. It is believed to be the largest death by suicide case the Department of Justice has ever settled.

Sgt. Dash was deployed twice to Iraq and experienced multiple traumatic incidents, including the deaths of his two closest friends. After returning home, he struggled with PTSD which worsened after the loss of his job and being informed by the VA they were seeking to collect nearly $20,000 they had overpaid him in separation pay and were halting his service-connected disability payments until the full amount was repaid.

On the morning of March 11, 2019, Sgt. Dash was at home when he attempted suicide by hanging. At the request of his wife, Emma, police brought him to the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center for treatment, and he was involuntarily placed in a locked mental health unit on suicide watch. On March 14, 2019, he was discovered dead by another patient. Sgt. Dash leaves behind a wife and three children.

The lawsuit alleges that VA staff negligently failed to conduct 15-minute safety rounds which were required to assess Sgt. Dash's well-being. In addition, the VA neglected to follow their own suicide prevention policies and Sgt. Dash was allowed access to additional clothing.  Observation cameras, which were required on the locked mental health unit where Sgt. Dash was housed, had not been working for 3 years. There were no door alarms or sensors on the door that Sgt. Dash used as the anchor point for his hanging, despite numerous recommendations from the Department of Veterans Affairs that they be installed. After his death, the VA issued a national mandate requiring that door alarms and sensors be installed in all VA mental health units to prevent similar suicides from occurring in the future.

Emma Dash and her children have struggled emotionally and financially since Sgt. Dash's death. "After all the pain my family has gone through these past few years since losing Brieux, I'm grateful that this fight for accountability has finally concluded. Because of the VA's negligence, three children are forever without their father. I hope that this serves as a lesson to the entire VA system, and that other families are spared the unimaginable pain we have gone through," Emma states.

"If VA staff had done the bare minimum and cared for a struggling veteran who was on suicide watch, Sgt. Dash would still be here today. The VA's safety shortcomings resulted in three children losing their dad," said Kevin Owen, Partner at Gilbert Employment Law and one of the attorneys representing the Dash family.

"It is tragic when one of our Nation's Veterans dies by suicide. But it is callous and contemptuous when the VA refuses to accept responsibility for their employee's negligence and deliberate indifference toward patient safety. The emotional toll on the family members of a Veteran who dies by suicide is profound and irreversible," states Peter Bertling, President of Bertling Law Group and lead liability attorney for the Dash Family.

Peter Bertling focuses his legal practice on representing the families of Veterans who have died by suicide. He understands the impact these cases have, not only on the immediate family, but as a catalyst for systematic change. "When we make the decision to represent these families it is always to find out what really happened and attempt to seek accountability and corrective action within the VA Healthcare system to prevent this type of tragedy from happening again."

Source: Bertling Law Group

About Bertling Law Group

Bertling Law Group was founded in 2018 to protect the rights of Veterans, Active Duty Military personnel and their families. Peter is proud to serve the women and men who have so honorably served our country. This work is his passion. Although he settles most cases for the maximum possible damages, Peter is a strategic, tenacious trial attorney who does not back down from going to trial if he believes he can achieve better results for his clients.

Peter Bertlingis a long standing member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA), an invitation only group of select trial lawyers whose mission is to elevate the standards of integrity and honor in the legal profession. He has achieved the preeminent AV rating by Martindale Hubbell which is awarded to lawyers who have been recognized by their peers for having achieved the highest level of professional excellence and ethical standards.

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