City agrees to pay $160K to estate of inmate who died in jail
The city has agreed to pay $160,000 to the estate of a former inmate whose death at Metro Corrections could have been prevented but for a number of mistakes by the jail staff and the contracted medical provider at the time, according to investigators.
Monday, April 21st 2014, 11:33 am EDT by
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- The city has agreed to pay $160,000 to the estate of a former inmate whose death at Metro Corrections could have been prevented but for a number of mistakes by the jail staff and the contracted medical provider at the time, according to investigators.
The settlement was reached Friday with the family of Savannah Sparks, who sued the city in April 2013 alleging dozens of Metro Corrections employees and medical staff were negligent in treating Sparks while she was in the jail.
Sparks, 27, died April 12, 2012, six days after being arrested on a theft charge and while detoxing from a heroin addiction.
Last August, the estate settled for an undisclosed amount with the jail’s former medical provider, Corizon.
“We are very happy that Savannah’s kids will be taken care of,” Seth Gladstein, an attorney for Sparks’ family, said of her three young children, ages 3, 6 and 12.
Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for the Jefferson County attorney's office, confirmed the settlement amount.
Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton said in a statement that the jail's medical provider in 2012 was challenged by a "dramatic influx" in admissions of inmates suffering from serious drug withdrawal, including Sparks.
"The sadness of her death prompted significant changes," Bolton wrote, including enhanced front-end screening of inmates by trained detox nurses, male and female detox housing units for closer monitoring and eventually a new healthcare provider.
"Since the implementation of the above programs in 2013, the jail has not had any significant events related to people experiencing drug withdrawal," Bolton said in the statement.
But Gladstein claims jail staff in 2012 failed to follow several policies and procedures already in place for notifying medical staff when an inmate is going through serious detox.
When a corrections officer saw Sparks vomiting on herself, instead of notifying medical staff, she was cleaned up and put back in her cell, Gladstein said in an interview. The officer later wrote in notes that Sparks was in severe detox, but she was not taken to the hospital, as policy requires, Gladstein said.
“She needed to be transferred (to the hospital) right then and there,” Gladstein said.
Over the next few days, according to an investigation by the Louisville Metro Police Department, Sparks vomited constantly, sweated profusely and defecated on herself.
In the middle of the night on April 12, 2012, a nurse at Louisville Metro Corrections thought Sparks was dehydrated and decided she needed to see a doctor.
the jail until she died more than 12 hours later, even though she was supposed to be monitored because of her ongoing detox, according to police records released in the investigation of her death.
The police investigation could find "no explanation" as to why no medical professional checked on Sparks the day she died.
The Commonwealth's Attorney's Office ultimately concluded in a Jan. 21, 2014 letter to police that while there were mistakes and failures to provide Sparks with adequate medical care, the negligence was not criminal.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Mark L. Miller wrote in a letter summarizing the police investigation that there were many mistakes or missed opportunities to provide Sparks with adequate medical care. He said a sheet identifying Sparks as going through withdrawal was removed from Spark's cell, which was partly why no one checked on her and responded to her deteriorating condition.
Also, Miller concluded that correction officers who noticed Sparks' symptoms should have alerted medical staff.
The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Karen May, Sparks' grandmother, claimed Corizon and dozens of Metro Corrections staff, including Corrections Director Mark Bolton, were negligent in treating Sparks.
Just before Sparks died, corrections officer Ann Tinker discovered Sparks unresponsive in her cell, with vomit on the floor. Tinker, who remembered Sparks from a few days prior, noticed a "visible" deterioration in her condition, noting Sparks looked "emaciated" and her vomit was green.
"And I was holdin' her up (begins to cry) and her hands and her arm were just, like turning blue and her hand was, like twisted," Tinker told police later. "And I felt her just cold on her arm."
About an hour later, Sparks was pronounced dead at University Hospital.