In a lawsuit that could have cost Pierce County nearly $2 million if the verdict had gone the other way, a jury has ruled in favor of the county in a lawsuit filed by a former county jail inmate who claimed he suffered medical setbacks as a result of his incarceration.
The Superior Court jury rejected all of the plaintiff’s claims, which included medical malpractice, negligence and civil rights violations. He asked for $1.9 million in damages.
Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist, whose office defended the county in the trial, called the lawsuit “frivolous.”
“We’re successfully protecting the taxpayers’ money,” he said after the jury’s ruling Oct. 25.
According to Lindquist, the plaintiff, who wasn’t identified by authorities, was arrested on Jan. 3, 2008 for suspicion of driving under the influence and had a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit. Jail personnel treated the plaintiff for severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms and, 20 days after his arrest, sent him to Tacoma General Hospital by ambulance due to concerns surrounding his withdrawal-related condition. He was returned to the jail in stable condition two days later.
After the plaintiff complained of peeling skin on his feet on Jan. 29, 2008, he was given daily foot soaks, antibiotics and wound care. Lab results indicated that the plaintiff had a MRSA infection on his foot. The condition appeared to be resolving and the plaintiff told authorities before being released from jail that he had a followup appointment scheduled with his doctor, Lindquist said.
The same day the plaintiff was released, he went to the emergency room at Tacoma General with complaints of neck and back pain, and later mentioned he had a toe infection, according to Lindquist. The hospital treated the toe and was discharged him in stable condition. The following day, after the plaintiff saw his regular foot doctor, his left big toe was amputated due to osteomyelitis, a bone infection caused by bacteria.
Lindquist said medical records indicate the plaintiff was diagnosed with multiple medical conditions during 2006 and 2007, and his doctor called him a “non-compliant patient.” Before and after his jailing in 2008, the plaintiff had six toes amputated as a result of his poor health, alcoholism and diabetes, the prosecutor said.