$3M lawsuit filed against Grainger County Sheriff’s Office in connection to inmates death

A lawsuit was filed against the Grainger County Sheriff’s Office in connection to the 2019 death of an inmate.
A lawsuit was filed against the Grainger County Sheriff’s Office in connection to the 2019 death of an inmate.
A lawsuit was filed against the Grainger County Sheriff’s Office in connection to the 2019 death of an inmate.(Grainger Co. Sheriff's Department)
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 1:49 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:01 PM EDT
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GRAINGER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT) - A lawsuit was filed against the Grainger County Sheriff’s Office in connection to the 2019 death of an inmate.

The lawsuit alleged Kenneth “Buddy” Staley died on August 4, 2019, after he was denied “much-needed medical care” while in custody at the Grainger County Detention Center.

The lawsuit claimed jail officials failed to act on injuries that happened to Staley while in custody.

In July and August of 2019, Staley was an inmate at the Grainger County Detention Center, had been incarcerated for nearly two and a half years and was set to soon be released. The lawsuit stated Staley was a “trusty” at the jail and was known to be responsible.

The lawsuit stated, “on information and belief, Jail officials were known to say, ‘this place couldn’t run without Buddy.’”

According to the records, Staley was on disability and had serious medical issues. Jail officials allegedly required Saley to work eight to 18 hours a day.

At the time of his death, Staley was reportedly in talks with his attorney about the extra time he had received after not being released on time earlier in the year.

On July 30, Staley spoke with his parents, who said he seemed in good health and spirits. The following day, Staley’s father went to visit him but was denied and told Staley was too sick to be seen, according to the lawsuit.

Officials said Staley had suddenly become extremely ill on July 30. Staley reportedly became feverish, achy, weak, disoriented, unable to use the toilet on his own and “talking out of his head.”

Several inmates allegedly requested jail officers and nursing staff to check on Staley. The lawsuit claims the inmates’ requests were ignored. According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Harville reportedly told Staley’s cellmate he would be “fine.”

Staley laid in his cell for three days before he was taken to the Jefferson Memorial Hospital, the lawsuit stated. He was later transferred to Tennova North Knoxville Medical Center for specialized care. Doctors diagnosed Staley as being in septic shock, with pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Staley’s wife said she arrived at the hospital on the morning of Aug. 4 and was told Staley had been declared brain dead. Staley was pronounced dead at 7:45 a.m. on Aug. 4.

The Grainger County Detention Center contracts with a third-party medical provider, Southern Health Partners, Inc. (SHP) Medical services are reportedly provided by nursing staff employed by the County and a supervising physician with SHP.

The lawsuit named Sheriff James Harville for having a “personal role in the denial of medical care of Buddy Staley.” The lawsuit claims Sheriff Harville was aware Stanley was in distress but reportedly did nothing to ensure he received emergent care.

Dr. Kenneth Matthews was the medical director and physician responsible for overseeing medical care for all inmates at the Grainger County Detention Center. The lawsuit claims Matthews was “unreasonably delayed in evaluating, treating and/or referring Buddy Staley for emergent care despite his presenting serious medical symptoms such as altered mental state.”

Other officers and nurses employed at the jail are also named in the lawsuit for having failed to refer Staley for emergent care.

According to the lawsuit, Dr. Matthews infrequently visited the Jail to evaluate his patients.

“Grainger County knew that Dr. Mathews could not oversee the provision of medical care with the attention required to secure the inmates rights and prevent unreasonable delays in evaluating and treating these inmates,” the lawsuit reads.

A portion of the lawsuit stated:

“The Grainger County Jail officials and medical professionals responsible for Buddy Staley’s care acted with deliberate indifference to his constitutional rights and in accordance with an unofficial policy or custom of providing delayed or inadequate medical care to inmates at the Jail. The most obvious evidence of such a policy or custom is Jail officials’ willful actions in ignoring—for three days— Mr. Staley’s weakened state and altered mental status. In addition, the County has been the subject of numerous complaints and lawsuits alleging delayed / inadequate medical care.”

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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