February 27, 2017
John Morris Lee came to the Jackson County Adult Detention Center in December 2012. Charged with a third offense (felony) shoplifting charge, he had been in the facility several times in the past. For many years prior to his incarceration, Lee suffered epileptic seizures for which he received medication.
Upon entry into the ADC, Lee notified the intake officer of his prior history of seizures and his prior prescription for medication. However, Lee did not indentify the medications he had been taking, or the physicians who prescribed them, or the pharmacy which filled them. Lee made no further attempt to notify the medical staff or incarcerating officers of his need for anti seizure medication for almost one month. In early January 2012 Lee advised the ADC medical staff of his need for anti-seizure medications. At that time, a nurse requested Lee complete an ROI (Request for Information) form to authorize the ADC to obtain his most recent medical records. Lee did not complete an ROI until February 22, 2013. Unfortunately two days later, Lee died of a seizure.
Lee’s family sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming the County, various ADC employees and independent contractors, violated Lee’s his constitutional rights by failing to provide him with medically necessary medical care, i.e. his anti-seizure medications. The Plaintiffs also alleged the County provided inadequate training and supervision, and had adopted a custom of denying medications to inmates. The County defended on several grounds, primarily (a) no evidence of deliberate indifference on the part of any county employee, (b) no County policy an alleged constitutional violation, and (c) as licensed medical professionals, the County had no obligation to train nurses or physicians in medical procedures.
Ultimately the US District Court granted the County obtained a summary judgment. The Court held, among other things, there had been no showing of (a) a policy or procedure (or lack thereof) which led to any alleged constitutional violation, (b) any alleged failure to train/supervise did not amouint to a conscious disregard for Lee’s constitutional rights, and (c) no evidence existed to show the County ratified any action of its employees. All the other defendants in the case, except the jail’s head nurse, were dismissed.
The case proceeded to trial against the ADC’s head nurse. A jury unanimously found in favor of the nurse, determining she had not been deliberately indifferent in any way towards Lee’s medical needs and/or constitutional rights.
Representing the County and other County employees in this matter were Stephen W. Burrow, James H. Heidelberg and April McDonald.