A lawsuit claiming that the 2010 death of an 18-year-old inmate at the Whitley County Detention was the result of negligence by jail staff has been settled out of court.
According to documents obtained through on open records request by the News Journal, the Kentucky Association of Counties (KACO) All Lines Fund, which acts as an insurer for Whitley County, settled the lawsuit brought by the estate of Bobby Aaron Hubbard for $90,000.
The settlement was finalized in Dec. 2012.
The agreement brings to an end one of two lawsuits against the detention center and the county regarding the death of jail inmates. Another is still pending.
Hubbard was booked into the Whitley County Detention Center at 3:26 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2010 after being arrested by police for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia, non-payment of fines and for failure to appear.
He was found unresponsive in his cell by jail staff on March 4, and taken to Baptist Regional Medical Center by ambulance once it was determined he had no pulse. He was officially pronounced dead at the hospital.
Patricia Hubbard, his mother and the administrator of his estate, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in London on March 4, 2011 claiming her son’s civil rights were violated at the jail because he was deprived of “life sustaining” medical treatment. She named as defendants in the case the county, Jailer Ken Mobley and a whole host of jail staff and medical personnel at the jail.
Brandon Storm, a London attorney who represented Hubbard’s estate in the lawsuit, made an initial settlement offer of $750,000, but lowered it to $250,000 before accepting $90,000.
The settlement agreement led to the dismissal of the case against all of the defendants and includes no admission of liability or guilt.
The KACO All Lines Fund will pay the settlement on behalf of the county and the jail with the exception of a $1,000 deductible.
The facts regarding Hubbard’s death and whether jail staffers treated him appropriately were hotly disputed by both sides that each sought out expert opinions on the matter.
An examination of the events leading up to Hubbard’s death by James A. Daley in Sept. 2012 contends that the jail acted properly in caring for him during his short incarceration. Daley has served as legal counsel to the Campbell County Detention Center, is a private attorney and has also Assistant Campbell County Attorney and Campbell County Jailer.
“WCDC deputies observed Hubbard on numerous occasions over the seven plus days he was incarcerated. On the two or three occasions Hubbard complained of a medical issue staff reacted appropriately and pursuant to their training,” Daly writes in a report.
“The actions of WCDC in adopting policy and procedure and staff response to Hubbard do not appear to rise to a level of negligence and, as a result, certainly do not rise to a level of deliberate indifference.”
At the opposite end, Jeffrey S. Garrett, MD — a cardiologist with Shadyside Cardiology Associates in Pittsburgh, Penn. — provided an expert report for Hubbard’s attorneys contending he did not receive proper medical care after complaining of chest pains on March 2, 2010 and presenting with a fever the following day.
A medical report in the case shows Hubbard died of a heart attack brought on by endocarditis (a heart infection) exacerbated by frequent intravenous drug use.
“Had the patient been sent to the emergency room, on March 2 or March 3, endocarditis would have been diagnosed and the patient would have been started on appropriate intravenous antibiotic therapy,” Garrett writes in his conclusions.
“Failure to appropriately evaluate Mr. Hubbard on March 2 or March 3 led to his untimely demise on March 4.
Mobley said in an interview Tuesday that Hubbard’s death, along with the death of two other inmates at the jail, has led to more stringent requirements regarding lodging of inmates and improvements in medical care offered at the jail.
“We’ve got a better nursing program now than we had back then. We have a nurse here 12 hours a day, seven days a week now as opposed to just eight hours a day,” Mobley said.
“I know there are people angry about some of our refusals to lodge people the police bring in here, but we have to be very careful,” Mobley added. “When they pull in here with them, they don’t know how many pills they took or whatever and they are higher than a kite … they just want to pull in and drop them off and take off. We just can’t do that. There’s too much liability.”
Mobley said KACO has led a statewide effort to attempt to lessen the cost of lawsuits against county jails.
“They’ve brought posters around and talked to us and come up with this triage thing where we ask them all these medical questions to kind of figure out what is going on,” Mobley said. “When people are brought here and they are so high they can’t even hold their eyes open, that’s where the liability lies. We’ll refuse them until a doctor checks them out.”
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr. said he couldn’t speak to the specifics of the Hubbard settlement, but did say that the deluge of lawsuits against the county is getting costly.
“It has, over the last 15 years, caused our insurance premium to go up dramatically because of the lawsuits,” White said. “It’s significant because we are in the process of negotiating our insurance.”
While the county has traditionally used KACO as an insurer, White said the county is looking at other options this time around.