Family sues Lexington government, nurses over Fayette inmate's death

cclaybourn@herald-leader.comJune 4, 2011 

Administrators of the estate of a man who collapsed in the Fayette County Detention Center and later died have sued the Urban County Government and others, contending the man was a victim of "egregious and unjustifiable treatment."

Douglas Ferguson and Lisa Ferguson Day, co-administrators of the estate of Dean Ferguson, say Karen Hodge and Stephanie Travis, nurses in charge of tending to Dean Ferguson's medical needs, personally mistreated him, the lawsuit said.

Susan Straub, spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray, said the city had no comment on the lawsuit.

Dean Ferguson, 54, of Lexington was serving time on weekends after being convicted of driving under the influence. He checked into the jail at 7 p.m. July 9 and was taken to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital the next morning. He was pronounced dead of a pulmonary embolism at 10:13 a.m. July 10, according to a report from the Fayette County coroner.

Documents obtained through an open records request show that during the night Ferguson complained of "chest pain and shortness of breath." Jail officers observed Ferguson sweating throughout the night and noticed him breathing heavily and growing progressively paler.

Surveillance video from 9:45 p.m. July 9 shows Ferguson swaying and breathing heavily, then collapsing to his knees.

The lawsuit states that sometime after 2:45 a.m. July 10, medical staff continued to ignore Ferguson's medical needs and discounted them. At 8:55 a.m. July 10, Ferguson collapsed again and didn't have a pulse. The lawsuit states he died before arriving at the hospital.

The nursing licenses of Hodge and Travis, who were on duty at the jail the night Ferguson died, were suspended for three years after an investigation into Ferguson's death. Hodge and Travis are both named in the suit, as is Correctional Medical Services, a Missouri company that contracts with the Fayette County jail to provide inmate medical services.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

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