Doctor dropped from lawsuit filed by inmate's family

Dec. 05, 2012 @ 11:59 PM

The owner of the practice that provides medical services to the jail is no longer a defendant himself in a lawsuit over the death of an inmate, but his business and some of its employees still are.

The family of Billy Duane Foster is suing First Med and some of its employees, as well as the county and some jail staff, over his death while he was an inmate at the jail.

Judge Thomas Varlan dismissed with prejudice a claim against Dr. Robert Maughon, owner of First Med Medical Clinic, but declined to do so for the clinic.

Foster died after suffering seizures while under supervision in the medical wing of the jail. Documents filed in court indicate that Jesse Timbrook, the nurse at the jail during that time, called an ambulance for Foster because of the seizures but her supervisor, Tammy Finchum, ordered her to cancel the ambulance send him back to the medical wing. He died after suffering another seizure a short time later. Court documents indicate there is no dispute from any party in the case that Timbrook had jailers bring Foster to the front of the jail and was preparing to have him taken to the hospital while he was still alive, but Finchum ordered her to take him back into the jail and continue monitoring him.

Varlan ruled the plaintiffs did not offer any evidence in their complaint that Maughon personally provided care for Foster or had knowledge of the activity “Dr. Maughon is not mentioned in the factual narrative of the complaint, and plaintiffs have otherwise not provided any facts to support their claim,” he wrote in his opinion.

He overruled the argument made for First Med, saying the case law cited by attorneys for the clinic didn’t apply to Foster’s case.

In the meantime, attorneys for the county are trying to argue that it should be excluded from the lawsuit, in part because First Med and its personnel are responsible for medical care under the clinic’s contract with the county.

The plaintiffs argue that the county is responsible for seeing to it that the jail provides “constitutionally adequate” medical care. They don’t argue the point that First Med personnel were responsible for decision making regarding whether Foster needed to go to a hospital, but they say issues the county could face at a trial include whether First Med was qualified to provide those services at the jail.

“While it is acknowledged that Sevier County is not vicariously liable for the deliberate indifference of Nurse Timbrook, Nurse Finchum and First Med, Sevier County is liable for choosing First Med as the Jail medical provider,” attorney Jerry Martin wrote.

They also question whether the decision making was impacted by a county policy: “Did Sevier County have a policy, practice or custom of refraining from transporting inmates who were in need of medical attention to outside physicians or health care facilities in order to avoid the additional cost of jail personnel and inmate medical care.” Additionally, they say the lawsuit will address whether the county was making sure First Med personnel properly followed county policies for medical care.

The trial is currently set for September.