Suit: Jail neglected inmate who died

An inmate at the Craighead County jail died after medical officers ignored his urgent requests for attention to a painful blood clot in his left leg, a federal lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in Pine Bluff, says that Kevin Lakes, 24, of Jonesboro died on Sept. 27, 2006, of what an autopsy later determined was a pulmonary embolism caused by a deep-vein thrombosis, or a blood clot, in his left leg.

“The doctor could have put him on drugs, or easily done something that would have saved his life, but instead he fell through the cracks,” said Little Rock attorney John M. Hardy, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakes ’ younger sister Dominique King, 23, of Jacksonville.

Lakes was taken to the Craighead County jail on Aug. 7, 2006, to await transfer to the Correction Department to serve time for a cocaine-possession conviction, Hardy said.

On Aug. 12, Lakes submitted a medical request form.

“I have acquired a blot clot in my left calf area and it’s unbearable,” he wrote. “It’s constant pain whether I’m lying down, sitting, or standing. And it’s swelling up very badly. I need immediate medical attention.” A medical officer didn’t respond for two days, at which point Lakes thought he was improving, and no tests or examination were performed, the lawsuit states. But two days later, on Aug. 16, Lakes submitted another medical request saying the leg was still swollen and was causing “extreme pain.” Two days later, a “medical officer” without any formal medical training saw Lakes, the suit states.

“Even though a blood clot in the leg is a potentially deadly condition and should be treated as an emergency, [the medical officer ] treated the blood clot with an ankle wrap and Naproxen and failed to inform a physician of Kevin’s condition or to transport Kevin to a physician or hospital,” the suit states.

The defendants in the lawsuit are the medical officer, Benny Ford, and the jail’s medical administrator, Steve Metcalf, who, according to the lawsuit, is a licensed paramedic but not a doctor.

The lawsuit also names Craighead County officials and Correctional Medical Services Inc., which contracted with the state to provide medical services in the prison system, including the Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff where Lakes was taken on Sept. 22, 2006.

A day earlier, Lakes had fainted while playing basketball in a jail yard and reported that his heart rate was abnormal, his chest burned and that he was dizzy, the suit says. Jail personnel refused to take him to a hospital or allow him to see a doctor, the suit says.

At the Diagnostic Unit, Lakes didn’t receive a required initial health-care screening, the suit alleges. Although Lakes informed medical personnel that he had a serious health problem and needed to see a doctor, he “was told he would have to wait until his scheduled ‘health assessment, ’” the suit says.

But he never made it. On Sept. 27, Lakes suddenly collapsed, and he went by ambulance to Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, where he was pronounced dead.

The lawsuit alleges that inmate medical personnel were deliberately indifferent to Lakes’ constitutional rights. It alleges various “constitutional deficiencies” at the jail, including: a lack of medicalintake screening; a requirement that inmates pay for all medical services or go without; absence of staff nurses; no contract with a doctor; and an inadequately trained medical administrator.



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