MONMOUTH, NJ—Lowenstein Sandler filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey Tuesday afternoon on behalf of Michelle Trussell, the mother of a 31-year-old New Jersey woman who died of a drug overdose involving fentanyl while in custody at the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI).
The Complaint alleges that a cascade of illicit drugs flowed into the MCCI unchecked by high-ranking Monmouth County officials and corrections officers, and detainees were routinely exposed to an open and notorious drug trade. The Complaint also alleges that those officials and corrections officers were aware of the drug smuggling and pervasive drug distribution and use in the MCCI but failed to take reasonable measures to protect detainees in their custody, particularly those drug dependent detainees with heightened health concerns, such as Michelle Trussell’s daughter, Jennifer Ross.
According to the Complaint, Jennifer battled long-term drug dependency and was on the road to recovery. The mother of two young children, she participated in an in-patient rehabilitation program and had been accepted into the Monmouth County Recovery Court Program to resolve drug-related charges. On September 17, 2022, Jennifer was arrested at her mother’s home on outstanding warrants for alleged failure to appear in Recovery Court and municipal court on scheduled dates and was taken to MCCI. Three days later, on September 20, 2022, Jennifer died of a drug overdose while she was detained at the MCCI.