WHITESBURG – Jail officials in two Eastern Kentucky counties have been sued by inmates who claim they did not receive the medical help they needed despite repeated pleas to be taken to a hospital.
The alleged negligence led to the death of an inmate in Pike County and permanent injuries to the wrist and arm of another in Letcher County, the lawsuits claim.
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Frankie Branham of Pike County began complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath on Oct. 24, 2007, while he was in the Pike County Detention Center, according to the lawsuit filed in District Court in Pikeville.
As the pain increased, Branham repeatedly asked jail employees for medical help, the lawsuit says.
Jail officials, who were familiar with Branham because of his extensive criminal background, knew he had a history of coronary disease. But they ignored his requests and there is no record that he was examined at the jail, court papers say.
Two days later, Branham's sister, Wanda Hall, contacted the jail and demanded that her brother be taken to a hospital. Jail officials took him to Pikeville Medical Center, where he was told he had suffered a heart attack, the lawsuit says.
Branham died the next day. He was 47.
Branham's death was “unnecessary and preventable,” the lawsuit says, adding that the conduct of jail employees was “grossly negligent.”
The suit names William M. Deskins, who was Pike County judge-executive at that time, Jailer Rodney A. Scott and eight jail employees.
Deskins declined to comment Wednesday, as did jail officials, who said they had not yet seen the suit.
Attorneys say they will show that Branham's treatment was part of a continuing pattern of jail employees ignoring the medical needs of inmates.
The suit asks for a jury trial, damages and attorney's fees.
A damaged hand
In Letcher County, Paul E. Hall has filed a lawsuit against county officials saying that he received inadequate care after he fell on Aug. 17, 2007, while jail employees were escorting him to his cell.
At the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital in Whitesburg, he was told his wrist was fractured and jail officials were informed that he should go to the ARH hospital in Hazard.
Instead, jail officials took Hall back to the jail, where he remained in pain for two days, the lawsuit says.
On Aug. 19, jail officials took him back to the Whitesburg Hospital. The suit alleges that his wrist had begun healing improperly.
Hall was released on Aug.21, without explanation, parole or order, the lawsuit says.
At the Pikeville Medical Center, he was told that his fractured wrist had healed improperly and that he had permanent nerve damage “that will adversely impact his motor skills on his arm,” the lawsuit says.
On Dec. 10, Hall underwent surgery, but the suit says much of the damage cannot be corrected.
Hall, who was jailed after pleading guilty to receiving stolen property, “was injured as a direct result of the living conditions” at the jail, according to the lawsuit. In addition, the lawsuit says that medical attention and care at the jail is inadequate.
Hall is asking for a jury trial, damages, medical expenses and attorney's fees.
The suit names the Letcher County Fiscal Court, Jailer Donald McCall, Judge-Executive Jim Ward and four jail employees who are not named.
Letcher County officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.