The family of a Bonney Lake man who died last year while in custody in the Pierce County Jail are suing Pierce County in US District Court in Tacoma.
Filed last week, the lawsuit also names NaphCare Inc., a correctional health care company based in Birmingham, Alabama, and two nurses.
Ben and Nona Smith sued on behalf of their 48-year-old son Matthew Smith. He died in a prison cell on October 9, 2015, from a sepsis infection associated with his severe Crohn’s disease, according to medical records.
The lawsuit alleges that the infection was the result of a lack of adequate medical care, including a failure by prison medical staff to identify his aggravating condition and to seek medical treatment for him outside the prison.
The lawsuit details Smith’s many interactions with medical staff, including blood lab work made available to medical staff two days before his death that showed he “was in severe kidney failure due to his gastrointestinal problems “.
He alleges that the lack of treatment by NaphCare and its nurses violated Smith’s civil rights, constituting “inhumane” conditions.
Bradley Cain, general counsel for NaphCare, said in an email Monday that the company had not been served with the lawsuit, making it “premature for NaphCare to comment on this matter.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the county allowed a model to exist in the prison in which inmates with severe medical needs are not properly cared for.
In Smith’s case, the lawsuit contends that this included not referring him to Tacoma General Hospital, where he had previously been treated in prison, or following discharge instructions when his condition deteriorated. was aggravated.
Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said the prison met Smith’s dietary needs related to Crohn’s disease by giving him extra food. Smith needed a diet high in salt and fat because his large intestine had been removed to help manage the disease, which causes inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract.
When prison staff saw Smith on the floor of his cell, they called the medical staff, Troyer said in an emailed statement Tuesday.
âThe response team included a doctor who quickly assessed the situation and requested priority medical help,â he wrote. âThe Tacoma Fire medics came and tried to save lives. Correctional assistants saved the lives of many inmates.
Smith was arrested on August 27, 2015, after Bonney Lake police said they saw him driving recklessly.
Police initially believed he was driving under the influence, but after finding him naked and hallucinating in a shed on private property, they believed he had mental health issues, arrest records show. .
Smith was previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder and periodically experienced psychotic episodes, according to his parents.
Lawyer Ashton Dennis filed a $ 2 million claim on behalf of Ben and Nona Smith against Pierce County, Sheriff Paul Pastor and a corrections assistant in March. The municipality had 60 days to respond.
This did not happen and the lawsuit was filed, Dennis said.
The lawsuit was amended to include NaphCare after additional medical records were obtained, allegedly showing lack of care, Dennis said.
This story was originally published August 3, 2016 2:10 p.m.