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Deborah Young, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Gwendolyn Young, deceased, v. Correctional Healthcare Cos., L.L.C., et al.
Case Number: 4:13-cv-00315
Judge: Iain D. Johnston
Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (Tulsa County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: Dan Smolen, Don Smolen, Lauren Lanbright, Robert Blakemore, Bryon Helm, Dan Grves, Rachel Gusman, Chad McLain
Defendant's Attorney: Alexander Cladwll Vosler, Alexandra Gabrielle Ah Loy, James Michael Webster, Sean Patrick Snider for Correctional Healthcare Management, Inc. et al.
Clark Otto Brewster, Guy Anthony Fortney, Katie Arnold McDaniel, Mbilike Mwafulirwa for Vic Regalado, et al.
Description: Tulsa, Oklahoma civil rights lawyers represented Plaintiffs who sued Defendants claiming that they violated the Eighth Amendment Constitutional rights of an inmate in the Tulsa County Jail resulting in her death.
Gwendolyn Young was detained in the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center (the Jail) from October 16, 2012 until February 8, 2013, when she was found dead in her cell. During her time at the Jail, Ms. Young notified staff that she was diabetic, had a history of stroke, hypertension, and urinary tract infections. About a week before her death, Ms. Young began complaining of stomach pain and vomiting. On January 28, 2013, her blood pressure was taken and was low, at 99/71. The next day, a nurse noted that Ms. Young had refused her food tray because it upset her stomach. Ms. Young continued to report stomach pain on February 3, 2013. The following day, her blood pressure was very low, at 80/64,
with a fast heart rate of 106. Ms. Young reported stomach pain for the third day in a row on February 5, 2013, she refused her medications, and she indicated that the pain was worsening.
In the early afternoon of February 6, 2013, Ms. Young reported that she had been throwing up blood. Jail staff reportedly looked at some vomit in the cell, and commented that there was "not enough blood" and that the vomit looked like Kool-Aid. Ms. Young refused her medication again later that afternoon. On the morning of February 7, detention staff reported to nursing staff that Ms. Young had not eaten for three days and had complained of vomiting blood for three days. No medical care was provided in response, and no physical examination or vital signs were recorded.
Ms. Young continued to report illness, weakness, and vomiting on the evening of February 7, 2013. Just before midnight, housing Sergeant Byrd was called to Young's cell and was informed by a detention officer that Ms. Young "ha[d] not eaten or drank anything in three days" and that she had "been throwing up everything." Byrd took Young to the medical unit. The nurse told Byrd that Ms. Young likely had the flu, but instructed Byrd to take Ms. Young back to the housing unit without any treatment.
At approximately 6:48 a.m. on February 8, 2013, Ms. Young banged on the glass of her cell and reported that she was having difficulty breathing. A few minutes later, a nurse arrived, and Ms. Young told her that she wanted to go to the hospital. The nurse replied that she was "o.k." and did not need to go to the hospital. The nurse told Ms. Young to take her medications, and then left her in her cell. Within a few minutes, a detention officer found Ms. Young on the floor of her cell. The detention officer called a medical emergency.
Sergeant Byrd and three nurses responded. Byrd informed one of the nurses that Ms. Young had not eaten or drank anything for three days because she could not keep anything down and kept vomiting. The nurse noted that Young also had not been taking her medications. Byrd told the nurse that "something is wrong with inmate Young beside her not taking her medication." Byrd later testified that it was "obvious" that something was wrong with Ms. Young.
Another detention officer, Corrie King, observed that Ms. Young was not responding to nurses' questions and did not move off of the floor to the gurney. A nurse then grabbed Ms. Young's arms and started to drag her across the floor of the cell. At approximately 7:05 a.m., Ms. Young collapsed after nurses attempted to lift her off the floor onto her feet. She also fell to the ground while waiting for medical staff to lower the stretcher. Ms. Young was subsequently placed on the gurney and taken to the medical unit. Medical staff determined that Ms. Young should take Prilosec 20 mg. Ms. Young was returned to her cell at around 8:05 a.m. At the time she was taken to her cell, she appeared incoherent and was not responsive. Corporal D'Souza was concerned that something was wrong with Ms. Young, but deferred to higher ranking officers that she was not going to the hospital.
Detention Officer Aaron Sherman also observed that Ms. Young was not talking or complying with directives. D'Souza and another detention officer assisted in moving Ms. Young from the gurney to her bunk, and Ms. Young was then left in her cell at around 8:16 a.m.1 It does not appear that medical staff checked on Ms. Young in her cell from 8:16 until 10:03 a.m., when she was found in her cell unresponsive, with no pulse or respirations. The Jail Medical Director, Dr. Adusei, noted that she had "already expired" by the time he entered her cell.
The plaintiff filed this action, asserting claims under state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Dr. Adusei, CHC, and former Sheriff Stanley Glanz were deliberately indifferent to Ms. Young's serious medical needs. The defendants move for summary judgment.
Outcome: Plaintiff's verdict in the this case in the amount of $82 million.
Comments: Attorney Dan Smolen, who represented Young’s estate in the two-week trial, said the verdict is the largest standing civil rights death claim verdict in U.S. history.