A man who nearly died while in the Tulsa County Jail but was later resuscitated is suing the county and the jail’s former health care provider.
On Friday, Thomas Pratt, 36, filed a suit in federal court against Sheriff Vic Regalado, the Tulsa Board of County Commissioners, Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc., Dr. Curtis McElroy, nurse Patricia Deane and counselor Kathy Loehr alleging negligence and violations of his constitutional rights during his time in the Tulsa County Jail in December 2015.
Pratt, who was suffering from alcohol detoxification after being booked into the jail also suffered a brain injury while at the jail, and is now permanently disabled, his attorneys say. Pratt now has a legal guardian responsible for his affairs.
The lawsuit, filed by the Smolen, Smolen & Roytman firm, seeks more than $75,000 in damages and is the latest in a multitude of lawsuits against the jail and its former health care provider Armor for prisoner injuries and deaths at the jail that occurred during the administration of former longtime Tulsa County Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
Attorneys for Armor Correctional Health Services could not be reached for comment after the suit was filed late Friday afternoon. A spokeswoman for TCSO said the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
Pratt was booked into the Tulsa County Jail on Dec. 11, 2015 to serve a six-month sentence for failure to pay back child support.
Early the next morning, Pratt submitted a medical sick call note through the jail’s electronic kiosk system, asking to speak to a nurse about detox medication, the lawsuit states. Pratt submitted a second request later that day, Dec. 12, saying he was experiencing symptoms of withdrawal and needed medication, the suit states.
The request was not responded to until two days later, the suit states.
Later on Dec. 12, 2015, a nurse working for Armor conducted a drug and alcohol withdrawal assessment on Pratt, who told the nurse that he had a serious alcohol problem — drinking 15 to 20 beers a day for at least the past 10 years, the suit states.
The assessment showed that Pratt was experiencing constant nausea, frequent dry heaves and vomiting, moderate tremors, anxiety, restlessness, “drenching sweats,” and “severe diffuse aching of joints/muscles,” the lawsuit alleges.
A mental health and infirmary admission assessment on Pratt later that day by an Armor worker noted that Pratt was nauseated, slumped over, anxious, fearful and unsteady on his feet, and that he posed a risk for injury because of his symptoms of detoxification and high blood pressure, the suit states.
On Dec. 13, Pratt was put on seizure precautions, including that this vital signs be taken every 8 hours.
A second drug and alcohol withdrawal assessment was conducted on Pratt in the early morning hours of Dec. 14, the suit states.
That assessment was done by Deane, a nurse for Armor, and showed that Pratt’s symptoms were getting worse — constant nausea, frequent dry heaves and vomiting, severe tremors, acute panic states resembling those seen in cases of severe delirium or acute schizophrenia, disorientation, drenching sweats, and continuous hallucinations, the lawsuit states.
“To any moderately trained medical professional, it would be obvious that Mr. Pratt was suffering from delirium tremens,” which is a life-threatening condition related to alcohol withdrawal, the suit states. “Nevertheless, despite the obvious severity and emergent nature of Mr. Pratt’s deteriorating condition, he was not sent to a hospital or seen by a physician.”
This, the complaint alleges, was against Armor’s policy and the standards of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
Less than two hours after his second assessment, an Armor employee attempted to take Pratt’s vital signs, and noted that Pratt was tearing up his cell and deliriously stating he was “locked in the store.” Pratt was so disoriented he could not sit still to have his vital signs taken, according to the lawsuit, but no doctor was called and he was not placed on suicide watch or otherwise restrained.
“Rather, Mr. Pratt was left to his own devices, while in the throes of a dangerous withdrawal-related mental breakdown (likely, delirium tremens), alone in a cell,” the suit states.
The lawsuit also alleges that, despite the order that Pratt’s vital signs be taken every eight hours, a full set was not taken, and none at all were recorded on Dec. 14, 15, or 16, which would have not only violated policy, but “deprived Mr. Pratt’s ‘caretakers’ at the Jail of necessary information in monitoring his condition.”
On the morning of Dec. 14, documents show that a doctor, McElroy, visited Pratt. However, the doctor’s notes state that Pratt had at some point been found on the floor of his cell, pulling up tile, and with a 2-centimeter laceration on his head and other small scratches on his face and body. In addition, Pratt was confused and talking deliriously and a pool of blood was under the cell’s sink, the lawsuit says.
McElroy had waited more than 8 hours after Deane’s assessment to see Pratt, the suit alleges.
“It is unconscionable that Mr. Pratt was left to suffer in his cell for this period of time without even seeing a physician,” the suit states. “Each passing hour was another lost opportunity to get Mr. Pratt to an emergency room to receive the level of care and assessment he obviously needed. With each passing hour without this ER-level care, Mr. Pratt was inching closer to a medical calamity that would alter the rest of his life, and his family’s life.”
On the morning of Dec. 15, Loehr, a licensed professional counselor for Armor, conducted an initial mental health evaluation on Pratt, and reported that he was “detoxing from alcohol,” according to the lawsuit. However, she was unable to complete her evaluation because Pratt was having difficulty answering questions, believed himself to be in a detox center and could not state what day it was.
At midnight on Dec. 16, an Armor nurse noted that pratt “would not get up” but did not check his vital signs, pulse or respiration, the lawsuit states. About an hour later, at 1 a.m., a detention officer discovered Pratt laying on his bed and not moving, and called for a nurse.
The nurse entered Pratt’s cell and found that he had no pulse or respiration and was completely unresponsive. The nurse began CPR and paramedics were summoned. Pratt was resuscitated at 1:15 a.m. and was rushed to Saint John Medical Center in Tulsa.
An EMSA report stated Pratt had suffered cardiac arrest, and that jail medical staff had reported he hit his head four days ago and had been non-verbal and lethargic ever since, the lawsuit states.
Pratt remained at Saint John Medical Center until Jan. 1, where he was diagnosed with cardiopulmonary arrest secondary to presumed seizure during incarceration, acute renal failure, anoxic brain injury and other ailments, the suit states.
Doctors at Saint John Medical Center wrote that workers at the jail refused to send Pratt’s jail medical records to the hospital.
“Tulsa County Jail thus far has refused to send medical records to assist with pt (patient) care,” one doctor wrote on the evening of Dec. 17. “I have advised the hospital attorney who will be offering their assistance in this matter. I was able to speak with the Infirmary physician today, and another provider from the facility this afternoon. They were helpful in discussing the patient’s care during his stay there, but still refused to send records.”
Pratt’s jail medical records were eventually faxed to Saint John Medical Center on Dec. 18, records show.
Pratt is now permanently disabled and continues to suffer from severe seizure disorder, memory loss, extreme mood swings, anger, and verbal and communication deficits, and is now unable to work and lives with his parents, according to the filing.
A year after suffering the injuries Pratt was briefly jailed again in the same child support case, until the judge learned of his condition.
Pratt’s treatment, the lawsuit argues, is part of a pattern of problems at the jail.
“There are longstanding, systemic deficiencies in the medical and mental health care provided to inmates at the Tulsa County Jail,” the lawsuit states. “Former Sheriff (Stanley) Glanz has long known of these systemic deficiencies and the substantial risks to inmates like Mr. Pratt, but failed to take reasonable steps to alleviate those deficiencies and risks.”
Glanz had resigned from office a little more than two months prior to Pratt being booked into the Tulsa County Jail. Current Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado has since hired a different medical provider for the jail – Turn Key Health.