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Wrongful death lawsuit against Knox County Jail dismissed

 A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who died while in custody at the Knox County Detention has been dismissed in federal court.

In a memorandum and order filed June 16 in London, U.S. District Court Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove upheld the motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of the defendants, Knox County, Knox County Judge-executive J.M. Hall and Knox County Jailer Mary Hammons.

“At issue is whether Knox County, Hall or Hammons violated the constitutional rights of Angela Goodin or otherwise acted negligently in connection with her death,” Van Tatenhove stated.

Van Tatenhove noted that Goodin’s daughter, Tabitha, testified that on Jan. 27, 2011, the day Angela Goodin was arrested, her mother had accompanied her to Lexington for a doctor’s visit.

“Tabatha Goodin testified that she believed her mother had taken her usual prescription medication that morning, and that she did not believe her mother had had any alcohol on the day of her arrest, but that she noticed her mother was shaking all that day and through her mother was going into a seizure,” Van Tatenhove stated in the opinion. “Because Angela Goodin continued to shake while driving home that evening, Tabitha took over driving.”

The Goodins arrived back in Barbourville about 7 p.m. where they were stopped by Barbourville Police in the Walmart parking lot.

Barbourville Police noted police had made controlled drug buys off of Angela Goodin on multiple occasions and that police had been tipped off that she would be at the Walmart at a certain time.

When officers failed to locate suspected drugs on Angela Goodin’s person or in her purse, they reportedly advised jail personnel that Goodin had hidden drugs in her bra in the past and needed a strip search.

Knox County Jail Booking Officer reported conducting the strip search during which she failed to find any drugs.

“Foley asked Goodin if she had any drugs or alcohol in her system or if she had taken any that day, but Goodin replied that she did not,” Van Tatenhove stated. “Goodin asked for some water and told Foley that she had a fever and thought she had the flu, but said that she would be ‘okay.’”

As part of the booking process, Van Tatenhove noted that Foley asked Goodin a series of questions which included a medical questionnaire.

“Foley noted that Goodin did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of booking,” Van Tatenhove stated. “She also noted that Goodin did not show any signs of trauma or illness or infection that could spread through the jail. When asked whether she was carrying medication, Goodin responded ‘no.’ When asked if she was currently taking any medication, Goodin only listed medication for high blood pressure, and that she was taking ‘Klophin’ for a psychiatric disorder. Goodin also responded ‘no’ when asked if she had ever tried to harm herself or attempted suicide.”

Goodin was placed in a detox cell during which jail officers checked on her each hour between midnight and 8 a.m. 

Another inmate was placed in the cell between 5:30 and 6 a.m.

Van Tatenhove stated that Deputy Jailer Annette Lawson testified that when she brought the other inmate to the cell, Goodin woke up and rose up before lying down again.

About 8:10 a.m. jail personnel heard the other inmate yelling that Goodin was not breathing.

Deputy jailers initially put an ammonia inhailer under Goodin’s nose. When that illicited no response, 911 was called while two staff members began CPR.

Goodin was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m.

Van Tatenhove noted that an autopsy indicated Goodin died from “Oxycodone Intoxication.”

“The examining physician’s final diagnosis stated that there was a bag ‘with blue-white nondescript material’ in Goodin’s small intestine and that she swallowed the bag reportedly filled with oxycodone the previous day,” Van Tatenhove stated. “The attached lab report confirmed that Goodin tested positive for oxycodone.”

Van Tatenhove added that in interviews with Kentucky State Police, three other inmates who had been in the cell with Goodin – April Peters, Rebecca Brock and Brittany Parton – testified that while Goodin did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs, she had told them she had swallowed, “a cigarette cellophane containing approximately 15 to 20 Roxicet 30 mg pills when she was stopped by police.

“Partin told (investigators) that Goodin had asked them not to say anything to the guards about the pills and that she was fine,” Van Tatenhove stated. “Each of them stated that Goodin had been snoring loudly throughout the night, and was still snoring at 7:15 a.m. when breakfast trays were brought to the cell, but that Goodin did not get up to eat breakfast.”

Van Tatenhove went on to state that Goodin’s death was rule an accidental overdose.

“Goodin’s husband Joseph Goodin and her daughter Tabitha both testified in their depositions that they suspected that Goodin had been addicted to prescription pain killers for several months before her death,” Van Tatenhove stated.

While Hammons was not deposed by the plaintiff’s attorney, in an interrogatory, she stated that video footage of Goodin at the time of her booking shows she was in no apparent distress and was able to obey the deputy jailer’s commands throughout the process.

Van Tatenhove noted that while Hall is the chief administrative officer of the county, he had no personal contact with Goodin or personal knowledge of her during her incarceration.

Van Tatenhove stated that Goodin’s estate brought the lawsuit, contending that the defendants violated Goodin’s constitutional rights by, “exhibiting deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs and by failure to properly train and supervise employees at the Knox County Detention Center.”

Van Tatenhove noted that none of the individuals that came into contact with Angela Goodin, including police, booking personnel, deputy jailers or cellmates, saw anything to conclude she was under the influence of drugs.

“The only possible clue that Goodin had any medical needs at all was her statement to Foley that she had a fever and might have the flu – a statement that would not make the dangers of a possible drug overdose obvious to any lay person,” Van Tatenhove stated. 

Van Tatenhove added that the Plaintiffs contend because police and jail personnel failed to find the suspected drugs, they should have concluded that Angela Goodin had swallowed them and jail personnel should have checked on her more frequently throughout the night.

“Such a theory, however, would have required jail personnel to have made far too many assumptions for Goodin’s medical needs to qualify as obvious under the required legal standard explained above,” Van Tatenhove stated. “Moreover, the fact that Goodin exhibited no symptoms of having ingested any drugs precludes any contention that her condition was objectively serious.”

Van Tatenhove noted that Hammons and Hall in their official capacity as jailer and judge-executive, respectively have been dismissed from the lawsuit. Neither Hall nor Hammons were at the jail when Goodin was arrested, searched, booked or monitored. As such, neither could have known that Goodin had ingested the drugs

“Personal liability for Hammons and Hall also ‘cannot be based soley on the right to control employees,’” Van Tatenhove stated.

As to the claim that Hall and Hammons failed to properly train jail employees, Van Tatenhove stated there is no evidence that any such misconduct took place.

The lawsuit had been filed Jan. 21, 2012 in federal court in London. Knox County, Knox County Detention Center, Knox County Judge/Executive J.M. Hall, Knox County Jailer Mary Hammons, Knox County Deputy Jailer Bill Mills, and yet to be identified employees of the Knox County Detention Center were all named as defendants in the suit, which contained four counts.

"Mrs. Goodin's death was caused by and was a direct proximate and foreseeable result of the Defendants actions and inactions," the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit alleged Goodin's "injury and death is the result of a continued pattern of misconduct and is the result of the policies, procedures, customs and practices of Knox County, Kentucky and/or the Knox County Detention Center".

The suit also alleged violations of Goodin's constitutional rights, negligence and failure to train or supervise.


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