A former Tulsa Jail inmate has filed a lawsuit alleging “deliberate indifference” to her medical needs that resulted in serious injuries after she was denied drugs she had been prescribed prior to incarceration.
As a result of a chain of events, the lawsuit states, Catherine Lee Freeman, 38, was on mechanical ventilation for three days and a feeding tube for 14 days before being transferred back to the jail.
The lawsuit lists six defendants: former Sheriff Stanley Glanz, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, Tulsa County Board of Commissioners, Armor Correctional Health Services, Emergency Medical Services Authority and American Medical Response of Oklahoma.
Attorney Tom Sawyer filed the lawsuit Friday in Tulsa County District Court on behalf of Freeman, seeking more than $200,000 in actual and punitive damages.
The first eight pages of the 25-page complaint outline Freeman’s situation. The next four address past jail audits and reports, inmate deaths and issues that portray Glanz and the facility in an unflattering light.
“There are longstanding, systemic deficiencies in the medical and mental health care provided to inmates at the Tulsa County Jail,” the lawsuit states. “Glanz long knew of these systemic deficiencies and the substantial risks to inmates like Plaintiff, but failed to take reasonable steps to alleviate those deficiencies and risks.”
Freeman was incarcerated in the Tulsa Jail on Sept. 15, 2014, after being sentenced to three years in prison for driving under the influence of alcohol (second offense) and a concurrent one-year term for leaving the scene of a collision involving property damage.
Freeman contends that she explained to jail and medical personnel the risks of suddenly stopping the medications she was on — anxiety, depression and pain prescription drugs. She advised that she was “particularly worried about seizures,” but also concerned about suicidal thoughts, according to the lawsuit.
Toward the end of September and and in early October she began to have “repeated seizure episodes” that weren’t properly or effectively treated, the lawsuit states. The seizures began to last longer, culminating on Oct. 4, 2014, with one that lasted longer than 10 minutes, according to the lawsuit.
EMSA/AMR personnel were summoned to take Freeman to a hospital; at that point she was still seizing and turning blue from lack of oxygen, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit contends medical personnel negligently installed a ventilation tube, tearing Freeman’s esophagus and exacerbating her condition. The suit also alleges medical personnel negligently failed to recognize they had torn her esophagus, causing additional injuries.
“Plaintiff’s condition did not improve and she suffered cardiac arrest,” the lawsuit states.
Freeman eventually was diagnosed with a torn esophagus, two collapsed lungs, air in her abdominal and chest cavities, respiratory failure and rapid muscle breakdown, according to the lawsuit.
She also suffered an anoxic brain injury as a result of lack of oxygen before being transferred back to the jail on Oct. 17, 2014, the lawsuit states.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections records indicate Freeman was discharged from incarceration on Jan. 20, 2015.
“Plaintiff continues to suffer from injuries and has permanent injuries as a result of Defendants’ conduct,” the lawsuit states.