B.C. teen sues a decade after mother dies in jail

More than ten years after her mother died in a Surrey jail, a 13-year-old B.C. girl is suing for negligence.

Lawsuit alleges nurses failed to send Shannon Pyper to hospital after she showed symptoms of poisoning

Shannon Pyper, 26, died at the Surrey Pretrial Centre in Surrey, B.C. in 2005 after drinking a concentrated cleaning solution. (Leoboudv/Wikimedia)

More than ten years after her mother died after drinking cleaning fluid in a Surrey jail, a 13-year-old B.C. girl is suing the province, a private health care provider and three nurses for negligence.

The incident happened more than a decade ago when the teen's mother, Shannon Pyper, 26, was arrested and taken to the Surrey Pretrial Centre in September, 2005. 

Because of her extensive history of mental illness, which included schizophrenia and "unpredictable" behavior, the daughter alleges staff at the facility recommended Pyper be placed in the mentally disordered offender unit.

But according to the statement of claim filed on Monday, that advice was ignored and Pyper was placed in the general population and assigned a work placement as a cleaner for the shower area.

About nine days after she arrived at the facility Pyper drank a capful of Sani Nu-Kleen, a concentrated and highly toxic cleaning degreaser that was stored under a sink in the cleaning station. The incident was reported to staff and Pyper was moved to the health care unit, according to the statement of claim.

The nurse in the unit contacted poison control and was advised to take the incident seriously. According to the claim, the nurse was told to send Pyper to hospital if she showed any symptoms of poisoning — including drooling, difficulty swallowing, nausea or vomiting.

Never sent to hospital

The notice of civil claim alleges the nurse never entered the information in Pyper's file, as was required, and failed to refer her "for a psychiatric consultation after her suicide attempt."

The next day Pyper began complaining of stomach pains, but despite the directions from poison control, she was not sent to hospital. Instead, the claim alleges later that day she complained to a mental health coordinator about stomach trouble and was sent for a medical assessment inside the centre.

Pyper then developed drooling, cramping, diarrhea including discharging soap suds — which the claim describes as consistent with ingestion of a large quantity of cleaning fluid —  but once again she was not sent to hospital.

She was placed under medical observation later in the day before being returned to her cell that evening, and eventually given an antacid.

The next morning just before 10 a.m., she was pronounced dead by paramedics, according to the documents filed in court.

Lawsuit launched

Ten years later her daughter, who is now 13, is suing the province and Calibre Health Services — which was contracted to provide services at Surrey Pretrial — and three unidentified nurses for negligence and failing in their duty to provide care.

The girl is suing for an unspecified amount of damages for loss of support, loss of household assistance and loss of love, guidance and companionship of her mother. She is being represented in court by the Public Guardian and Trustee of British Columbia.

The defendants have yet to file responses to the lawsuit and none of the allegations has been proven in court.

B.C. Corrections spokesperson Amy Lapsley issued a statement saying they will review the notice of claim and respond through the appropriate court process.

"Because this matter is before the courts, we will not be commenting further," said Lapsley.

Calls to Calibre Health Services in B.C. reached a disconnected number.

With files from Chantelle Bellrichard