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Powell v. Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

May 17, 2019

HEATHER POWELL, individually and as mother, next friend and guardian of Elizabeth Kiley Eaton, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF OKLAHOMA COUNTY, OKLAHOMA COUNTY DETENTION CENTER, SHERIFF JOHN WHETSEL, OKLAHOMA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, CORRECTIONAL HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, INC., ARMOR CORRECTIONAL HEALTH SERVICES, INC., and JOHN DOE 1-10, Defendants.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint filed by Defendants Oklahoma County Detention Center (“OCDC”) and Oklahoma County Sheriff's Department (“Sheriff's Department”) [Doc. No. 23]. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition [Doc. No. 24]. The matter is fully briefed and at issue.

         BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of the suicide attempt of Elizabeth Kiley Eaton while she was a pretrial detainee at the OCDC on June 29, 2016. Because of the suicide attempt, Ms. Eaton was rendered comatose and remains in a vegetative state. Plaintiff Heather Powell - as Eaton's mother, next friend, and duly appointed guardian and as an individual - asserts claims against the Board of County Commissioners of Oklahoma County (“BOCC”), the OCDC, Sheriff John Whetsel (“Whetsel”), the Sheriffs Department, Correctional Healthcare Management, Inc. (“CHM”), Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. (“Armor”), and John Doe 1-10 for negligence and for alleged violations of Ms. Eaton's constitutional rights.

         To summarize, the Amended Complaint [Doc. No. 18] alleges:

         â€¢ Ms. Eaton was arrested on April 30, 2016, and taken to the OCDC, where she remained until her suicide attempt on June 29, 2016. She was 21 years old and charged with violating the terms and conditions of her deferred sentence for second-degree burglary (felony) and two misdemeanor offenses.

         â€¢ When Ms. Eaton was booked in, she showed signs of depression and despondency. A mental evaluation was scheduled, but according to OCDC records, Ms. Eaton did not show for her appointment. No. follow-up attempts were made to diagnose and treat her mental illness.

         â€¢ Prior to Ms. Eaton's jail stay, she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. She had a long history of mental illness, and as an adolescent had been a patient in several behavioral institutions. Ms. Eaton told Plaintiff that the OCDC had “refused to put her back on Risperdal.” [Doc. No. 18 at ¶ 12].

         â€¢ Ms. Eaton's cellmate recalled Ms. Eaton waking up, crying, and saying she “wanted to die.” Id. Ms. Eaton's cellmate reported to jailers that Ms. Eaton was “hearing voices” and had said she “couldn't take it anymore.” Id. at ¶ 20. In a recorded jail call from Ms. Eaton to her mother, Ms. Eaton said she was going to kill herself. Ms. Eaton sent Plaintiff a letter from the jail in which she stated that she was crying and was “emotional.” Id. at ¶ 12.

         â€¢ Ms. Eaton's arresting officer told Plaintiff that Ms. Eaton seemed as if she did not care about anything.

         â€¢ On June 29, 2016, Ms. Eaton attempted to kill herself by hanging. She tied a sheet or pillow case to a grate above the sink in her jail cell and jumped off the sink. Because of the suicide attempt, Ms. Eaton was rendered comatose and remains in a vegetative state.

         â€¢ The OCDC was aware of Ms. Eaton's mental condition and did nothing to prevent or prepare for a possible suicide attempt by Ms. Eaton. Medical personnel at the jail never assessed Ms. Eaton to determine if she posed a danger to herself.

         â€¢ Armor and CHM had a contract with Oklahoma County to provide medical services to inmates at the OCDC. Alternatively, OCDC staff informed Armor or CHM employees of Ms. Eaton's mental condition, and Armor or CHM failed to provide Ms Eaton with proper medical care.

         â€¢ Whetsel knew that the OCDC was understaffed and under-supervised. He had requested multiple funding increases, which were rejected by the BOCC. This lack of funding caused or ...


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