A private company contracted to provide medical services at the Franklin County Regional Jail has denied allegations in a lawsuit arising from the death of an inmate, including claims that the company “fabricated” documents after the man’s death.
Southern Health Partners, a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based company, filed its response Tuesday to the federal lawsuit filed by relatives of 21-year-old Dylan Stratton. He was found dead in his jail cell Jan. 23 from what the lawsuit describes as days of lack of treatment as he suffered through withdrawal symptoms related to drug use.
“At all times complained of, the SHP Defendants acted in good faith and in conformity with all applicable standards, laws and regulations pertaining to their conduct and with an objectively reasonable belief that their actions were lawful,” wrote Margaret Jane Brannon, Lexington-based attorney for Southern Health Partners. “If the Plaintiff has been damaged as alleged, which is specifically denied, such damage is the result of the actions or omissions of Plaintiff.”
Southern Health Partners has asked that it be dismissed as a defendant in the suit. If that doesn't happen, the company wants a jury trial.
The lawsuit, filed by Stratton’s mother, Leslie Glass, named a bevy of county jail officials along with the company contracted to provide medical services to the jail and several nurses. The suit claims that the combined negligence of the defendants and their policies led to Stratton's death.
“Dylan would not have died but for [the jail’s] gross, unconscionable and deliberate indifference to the tortures of his untreated benzodiazepine withdrawal,” wrote Frankfort attorney Michael Hawkins in the lawsuit. “His body was severely bruised as a result of mistreatment by the jail’s staff and/or his flailing about in delirium in his cell prior to his death. For a period of time after Dylan was found unresponsive and died, he lay naked in the open doorway of his cell — deputy jailers passed by the scene with nary a glance.”
One specific part of the lawsuit is aimed at the medical staff of the jail. It claims one of the nurses documented Stratton’s drug withdrawal just twice during his five-plus days of incarceration despite a company policy to document all findings at least every 12 hours and that cautions medical providers that withdrawal can be life-threatening.
The lawsuit claims the nurse provided the documentation to the Franklin County Coroner’s Office and “attested” that it was Stratton’s complete medical chart at the jail at the time of his death. However, the lawsuit states, Southern Health Partners later submitted an additional report, which included additional entries by the nurse.
“This second chart … was obviously fabricated in anticipation of this litigation to purposely cover up the failure of the defendants … to follow SHP’s clearly applicable policies and procedures and to mislead the court and jury,” the lawsuit states.
While Southern Health Partners acknowledged filing additional medical records, the company denies allegations of fabrication.
“The SHP Defendants admit so much of paragraph 33 of the Complaint as alleges that SHP produced additional medical records,” Brannon wrote. “The contents of those documents speak for themselves. The SHP Defendants deny any and all other allegations contained in that paragraph.”
According to the lawsuit, Stratton was taken into custody Jan. 17 on a drug charge and he reported during booking at the jail that he had high blood pressure and recreationally used drugs. He was flagged for drug withdrawal and placed in the jail’s detox cell for observation. In the following hours, the lawsuit claims, Stratton refused meals and possibly began vomiting from withdrawal.
A day later, Stratton had a seizure, reportedly from benzodiazepine withdrawal, the lawsuit states.
As Stratton’s symptoms persisted, medical staff allegedly did not examine him, the lawsuit states. Stratton was found unresponsive about 2:46 a.m. on Jan. 23 and pronounced dead about an hour later.
Stratton’s estate also cited several other federal lawsuits in its case against Southern Health Partners in an attempt to show a pattern of flawed policies. A court date for the suit was not publicly available.