A 31-year-old woman who died on Rikers Island earlier this year suffered from untreated diabetes that went unnoticed amid dysfunction in the jail system, a new legal filing alleges.

Mary Yehudah was incarcerated at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island when she was discovered unresponsive in her cell on the morning of May 17th. She was pronounced dead the next day at Elmhurst Hospital, becoming the 21st fatality on Rikers Island since the start of last year.

Though the results of a Medical Examiner’s autopsy still have not been released, media reports, relying on unidentified correctional officials, initially attributed the cause of death to a drug overdose.

But in a notice of claim on Tuesday, attorneys for Yehudah offered their own narrative, alleging gross negligence and medical malpractice on the part of the city’s correctional health care system.

Yehuda’s toxicology report revealed no sign of drug use, instead showing that she suffered cardiac arrest as a result of diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes, said Ilyssa Fuchs, an attorney representing the victim’s family.

Her condition could have been discovered in time if correction officials conducted routine urine and blood tests when Yehudah arrived at Rikers Island in February, the claim alleges. Those tests are legally mandated under city law.

Somebody’s light bulb should’ve gone off at some point. The fact that it wasn’t is attributable to the chaos, disorder, and deliberate indifference that goes on at Rikers Island.

Ilyssa Fuchs, attorney for Mary Yehudah's family

A spokesperson for the Department of Correction deferred questions to the Law Department, which declined to comment on the legal filing.

Rampant staff absences have plunged Rikers Island into disorder, advocates for detainees allege, causing hundreds of detainees to go without basic medical services each month. Recent data released by the city shows that the number of missed medical appointments by detainees jumped this year, despite a court order in December mandating expanded medical access for those incarcerated in city jails.

Family and attorneys for Yehudah say her death was a preventable consequence of the system’s lack of care. They allege that during her three months on Rikers Island, Yehudah raised repeated health complaints, including shortness of breath, chest pains, and need for dental care.

Those symptoms – combined with excessive weight and high blood pressure – should have pointed doctors to test her for diabetes, according to the notice of claim, which is typically a prelude to the filing of a lawsuit.

“Somebody’s light bulb should’ve gone off at some point,” said Fuchs, the attorney. “The fact that it wasn’t is attributable to the chaos, disorder, and deliberate indifference that goes on at Rikers Island.”

Mayor Eric Adams did not respond to a request for comment.

Last month, after the ninth death in city custody this year, Adams downplayed the death toll, noting that many detainees were already sick once they arrived in the city’s care.

“By the time people reach Rikers, their health has deteriorated,” Adams said. “Because Rikers didn’t give them heart disease, if that’s the reason they died. Rikers didn’t give them diabetes, if that’s the reason they died.”

“We look at the number,” he added. “But why did they die? You know, what conditions did they have before they came to Rikers Island?”

Yehudah was awaiting trial on a robbery charge.