Dover family files lawsuit after inmate death at jail

Incident involves man’s medication

By BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
Posted 2/21/17

The family of a man who died while in custody at the Bradley County Jail has filed a $30 million lawsuit, alleging negligence and lack of training on the part of the jail staff contributed to his …

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Dover family files lawsuit after inmate death at jail

Incident involves man’s medication

Posted

The family of a man who died while in custody at the Bradley County Jail has filed a $30 million lawsuit, alleging negligence and lack of training on the part of the jail staff contributed to his death.

William Dover, acting as next of kin and administrator of the estate of Hershel Cooney Dover, filed the suit in Bradley County Circuit Court on Friday against the Bradley County government, Corrections Department Capt. Gabe Thomas, and “unknown numbers of John Does in their individual capacities and their official capacities as agents of Bradley County Government.”

An autopsy report showed Dover had died as a result of "diabetic atherosclerotic hypertensive cardiomyopathy, with other significant conditions of COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease]” and the manner of death was ruled as natural.

According to the filing, EMS and officers of the Cleveland Police Department came to Dover’s home on March 15, 2016. Dover was reportedly experiencing “a diabetes-caused medical event,” and received treatment at the hospital for low blood sugar.

The filing said one of the officers who responded to that medical call returned the next day to arrest Dover on a probation violation warrant which had been issued by the Bradley County Court.

“Plaintiff and plaintiff’s wife, Gail Dover, notified the arresting officer, that [Hershel Dover] suffered from severe diabetes, required insulin three times per day and needed to eat a diet that did not spike his blood glucose but needed to eat on a regular basis,” the lawsuit reads, adding the arresting officer “assured plaintiff and Gail Dover the medical condition would get passed on to the jail staff” who would ensure Dover got his insulin shots and a “proper diet.”

Dover was taken to court by jail staff on March 17, 2016, and then returned to the jail where the suit claims he “vomited blood, was seen by a nurse then placed in a cell.”

“On March 18, 2016 at about 6:05 a.m., EMS responded to the jail and found [Dover] in a cell on the floor, pulseless, apneic, unresponsive, and was covered in copious amounts of coffee ground emesis,” the lawsuit reads. “EMS transported [Dover] to a hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m.”

The lawsuit states Dover’s autopsy found Dover had “significantly elevated glucose in his blood” and the stomach contents “were void of food and medications.”

Plaintiffs are claiming defendants in the case “acted under color of law and their negligence and intentional acts along with the deliberate indifference of the County deprived [Dover] of rights secured to him under the Eights and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution to be free from the infliction of cruel and unusual treatment and to not be deprived of life without Due Process of Law.”

The second count of the law suit claims wrongful death, saying the defendants “failed to render timely medical care” and to “feed and medicate [Dover] in accordance with his medical condition,” which caused “unnecessary pain and suffering, humiliation, injuries, and resulted [in Dover’s] death.”

A third count claims negligence, citing conditions which had been found by the Tennessee Corrections Institute in August 2016 which cited the jail for “overcrowding, using booking cells to house inmates, security check logs and understaffing of jail personnel.”

It cites the Sept. 18, 2016, death of Ralph Nelms, who was found hanging in his cell and three former jail officers are now facing charges in conjunction with that case and the April 28, 2016, death of Billy Joe Rogers, who was found unresponsive after a reported fight in the jail. Rogers died May 1, 2016 after being hospitalized for his injuries.

Not stated in the lawsuit is TCI, in October 2016, found the jail had remedied most of the deficiencies cited in the report, and recertified the jail upon acceptance of a “plan of action” to cure those deficiencies that remained.

Counts four and five of the lawsuit claim the officers involved had received “negligent training” and “negligent supervision” stating “the lack of training constitutes deliberate indifference by the County” and the lack of proper supervision “was the direct and proximate cause” of Dover’s suffering and death.

Count six claims an “intentional infliction of emotional distress” stating the officers “failure and or refusal to render aid to [Dover] despite their full knowledge of his condition” caused him to “needlessly suffer.”

The lawsuit also claims the “omissions of the County constituted a deliberate and wanton indifference and deliberate disregard” for the Constitutional civil rights of [Dover]” as well as alleging the defendants acted with “willful and wanton indifference to and with deliberate disregard” to Dover’s civil rights.

The plaintiffs are asking for $10 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages, as well as a jury trial.

A date for the case has yet to bet set.

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