Heart attack in jail after 23 days without heart medication...

by Lisa
(St George, Utah)

My husband James is incarcerated at Purgatory Correctional Facility in St. George Utah, but was moved to Davis county jail (he is a federal inmate being housed at a county facility pending trial), where he had a heart attack because they did not give him his medication.

James has been taking plavix, a heart medicine/blood thinner, for the past 5 years. He had a stint put in/angioplasty after suffering from a minor heart attack, following that surgery he was prescribed plavix, and a low dose aspirin that he has to take everyday for the rest of his life. My husband's doctor could not stress enough how important it is that he take the plavix.

My husband was arrested in Dec. 2013. He was in Purgatory Correctional Facility where he was getting his prescribed medicine everyday. In April of 2014 he was transferred from Purgatory to Davis County jail, but his medicine did not follow him.

James immediately told Davis county jail medical staff and officers that he takes plavix and needs it, and he filled out several medical request as instructed by staff. But he was not receiving his medicine. I called there at least 6 or 7 times trying to find out why James was not getting his medicine.

I even personally went to Purgatory and spoke to medical staff there to find out why his plavix was not sent with him. He made a note to call that same day to find out what was going on. 22 days later James had a heart attack and was rushed to Davis county hospital and had another stint put in.

The doctor confirmed it could have been prevented had he been taking his plavix. There is now permanent damage done to 20% of his heart. I would like to know how to pursue this matter. Clearly the jail is guilty of negligence for not providing James his medicine. What can be done? Do we have a case? Which jail do we file a case against? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Heart attack in jail after 23 days without heart medication...":

Lisa (St George, Utah):

From the facts you present ,it appears the Davis County Medical Staff was grossly negligent in failing to timely make available your husband's heart medication. With that said, most government agencies, including county jail personnel, are protected, and in many cases immune, from lawsuits under the legal doctrine of "sovereign immunity."

This is usually the case when there is moderate negligence resulting in minor injuries. However, when there exists evidence of gross negligence, sovereign immunity is often waived, permitting a victim to seek compensation for his or her injuries. Your husband may fall into that category.

Of course, to succeed in a negligence claim against Davis County will require expert medical testimony confirming his most recent heart attack was a direct and proximate result of the County's negligence. Here's what you need to know about proximate cause.

Section 63-30-3 of the State of Utah's Revised Code states, in part, that all governmental entities are immune from lawsuits...

(1) Except as may be otherwise provided in this chapter, all governmental entities are immune from suit for any injury which results from the exercise of a governmental function.

However, that immunity is conditional. There are some exceptions. The exception which may apply to your husband is Section ยง 63-30-10...

"Waiver of immunity for injury caused by negligent act or omission of employee...

Immunity from suit of all governmental entities is waived for injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of an employee committed within the scope of employment except if the injury arises out of, in connection with, or results from:

(1) the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function, whether or not the discretion is abused;"

You can read Utah's Governmental Immunity Act Chapter 30 here.

Get opinions of several experienced personal injury attorneys. Most will not charge for initial office consultations. Bring along your husband's medical records.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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