$2.5 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Against DeKalb County and Others

November 14, 2007
by: 
Dwayne Page

The widow of a former DeKalb County prisoner has filed a $2.5 million dollar wrongful death lawsuit in Circuit Court against the DeKalb County Government and others.

Bonnie Stembridge claims her husband, Barry Douglas Stembridge, died from a staph infection four months after being released from jail and that he was exposed to the disease while he was in jail.

Ms Stembridge is suing as widow, individually, and on behalf of her deceased husband, Barry Douglas Stembridge; the decedent's son, Jason Douglas Stembridge; and the decedent's father, Harold Stembridge.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit, in addition to the DeKalb County Government are former Sheriff Lloyd Emmons, the DeKalb County Department of Health, Detention Health Care Associates, Incorporated, John or Jane Doe (A), John or Jane Doe (B), dentist, nurse, and/or other medical personnel.

According to the complaint, The DeKalb County Government is a governmental entity which holds itself out to be responsible for the DeKalb County Jail. Lloyd Emmons, (former) Sheriff, was a publicly elected official whose responsibilities included the supervision and oversight of the DeKalb County Jail. The DeKalb County Department of Health is a governmental agency responsible for overseeing health issues within the county. Detention Healthcare Associates, Inc. is a professional corporation which holds itself out to be responsible for providing comprehensive inmate healthcare to detention facilities including the DeKalb County Jail.

D. Russell Thomas and Herbert M. Schaltegger of Murfreesboro are the attorneys for the plaintiff.

Ms. Stembridge alleges that during Barry Stembridge's incarceration in the DeKalb County Jail from Decemeber 19th, 2005 through on or about July 20th, 2006, Mr. Stembridge had approximately eight teeth removed by medical personnel.

According to the lawsuit, "During the time period in which Mr. Stembridge had approximately eight teeth pulled, there was a known outbreak of staph infection within the jail. Despite having knowledge of the presence of staph and the threat of infection, medical personnel proceeded to pull Mr. Stembridge's teeth and failed to administer any antibiotics or any other precautionary measure to prevent the contraction of staph infection."

"Mr. Stembridge was released from jail on or about July 20th, 2006. On or about November 15th, 2006, he began experiencing back pain and late that night was admitted to the hospital. Mr. Stembridge died on November 20th, 2006. The final diagnosis by the attending physician was staphylococcal sepsis. The immediate cause of death named on the Tennessee Department of Health Certificate of Death is also staphylococcal sepsis."

Ms. Stembridge claims that it was negligence to pull the teeth in an environment with such risk of exposure to staph and that it was further negligence to fail to administer any antibiotic or any other precautionary measure to prevent the contraction of staph following the dental procedures.

She further alleges that "the dentist and/or medical personnel, John or Jane Does, failed to act in accordance with the standard of care prevailing in the community or in similar communities at the time of their acts and failures to act as alleged herein. Their acts and failures to act resulted in damages which otherwise would not have occurred had they met the standard of care. The breach of the standard of care set out above resulted in damages to plaintiffs which otherwise would not have occurred had they complied with the standard of care which was breached."

"Detention Healthcare Associates, Incorporated failed to meet its professional obligation to the inmates of the DeKalb County Jail to furnish medical services within the standard of care prevailing in same or similar communities. Either clinical pathways were not in place, or not followed. It was negligence on the part of Detention Healthcare Associates, Inc. not to have such or follow such a breach of standard of care prevailing in the community or in such similar communities, resulting in the injuries which otherwise would not have occurred and in damages to the plaintiff which otherwise would not have otherwise occurred. Further, Detention Healthcare Associates, Inc, is liable for the dentist and medical personnel's acts and failures of act upon the theory of agency."

Ms. Stembridge alleges that "prior to his death, Barry Douglas Stembridge had pain and suffering, a loss of enjoyment of life, was in mental anguish over his physical condition, and ultimately died as the result of the failure of the defendants to properly prevent the contraction of staph. As a consequence thereof, he was deprived of his earning capacity and his heirs at law as dependents were deprived of his earning capacity and suffered pecuniary losses. His loss of capacity to earn which will be calculated and shown to the court and jury in this matter amounts to tens of thousands of dollars of losses. The cause of action for these losses inures to the benefit of the family. There were other out-of-pocket expenses incurred which were incidental and consequential damages consisting of expenses of the ambulance trip to the hospital, hospital emergency room charges, hospital treatment, and other expenses. Plaintiff specifically brings this cause of action pursuant to (state law) which codifies the right to proceed as heirs."

"Bonnie Stembridge claims that "she has been deprived of the companionship, society, counsel, and marital relationship with her husband. Thus, she brings her cause of action for loss of consortium alleging that she is entitled to a cause of action as an heir at law but also individually she has an independent theory of recovery for the loss of her husband whom she was living with and for whom she deeply cared."

"Jason Douglas Stembridge brings a cause of action for loss of consortium as he is deprived of his father's companionship, guidance, counsel, friendship, and the normal parent/child relationship which was close and which was cut short due to the acts and failures to act of the defendants. This separate claim is not objected to by the widow."

"Harold Stembridge brings a cause of action for loss of consortium as he is deprived of his son's companionship, counsel, friendship, and the normal parent/child relationship which was close and which was cut short due to the acts and failures to act of the defendants. This separate claim is not objected to by the widow."

Ms. Stembridge is asking that "they (plaintiffs) be permitted a recovery in this cause in the amount of $2.5 million dollars, in total, that the consortium claim be reported separately from the other damages requested, all damages permitted by law, discretionary costs, general relief, a trial by jury, and the clerk's costs."

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