Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

PHS Pays $350,000 to Settle Claim for Over-Medication Death of Florida Jail Prisoner

Prison Health Services (PHS) has, once again, entered into a pretrial settlement to pay the family of a prisoner who died from the negligent care provided by PHS at Floridas Leon County Detention Center (LCOC).
The parents of a Ruth Hubbs brought this action in Leon County Circuit Court, but the action was removed to federal court by defendants PHS and Leon Countys Sheriff. The suit, alleging Eighth Amendment and state law claims, was based upon the poor care provided to Hubbs while she was housed at LCDC from 2002-2003.

Hubbs had no history of mental health problems prior to her incarceration, but began experiencing depression in the fall of 2002, which was about six months after her arrest. She was prescribed Prozac, which prevented her from sleeping. A PHS psychiatrist prescribed Hubbs 150 mg daily of Doxepin on February 9, 2003. A month later, per dosage was upped to 250 mg. daily, along with Lithium and Depakone.

Doxepin is one of the older types of anti-depression medication that is noted for a higher risk of overdosing. It is also one of the less expensive depression medications and it was the policy of Prison Health Services to rarely use newer; safer, but more expensive depression medications, charges that complaint. By the end of April 2003, Hubbs was taking the Doxepin, a diuretic, a bi-polar medication, and an anti-psychotic medication.

By early May 2003, Hubbs started objecting to taking the medication. Her attorney, a social worker, and guards made repeated complaints that Hubbs appeared to be over-medicated. PHS employees ignored those complaints. Her attorney, being concerned Hubbs was coming to court stoned, sent a counselor from the Addiction Recovery Center, who found Hubbs unable to respond. The Counselor was told Hubbs was heavily medicated to keep her quiet.

Hubbs showed all the classic signs of Doxepin overdose: agitation, loss of physical coordination, stupor, confusion, hallucinations, and incoherence. Hubbs was so heavily medicated guards sent her to the infirmary because she could not be housed with other prisoners. The infirmary sent her back to her cell. Eventually she was moved to confinement where she received little or no attention or treatment.

Hubbs was found a lying on the floor of her cell on May 15, 2003. She was unable to rise, to eat, or to speak in coherent sentences. Guards appealed to infirmary staff to help lift her from the floor to a bed.

PHS doctor, William Pirmus, ordered staff to leave her there. Later that afternoon, a nurse found Hubbs sitting in the middle of the floor with her pants off, confused, and non-communicative. The next morning, Hubbs was found dead. The medical examiner found Hubbs death was caused by Doxepin intoxication.

The case was settled for $350,000 on August 29, 2005. Hubbs parents were represented by Tallahassee lawyers Steven P. Glazer and James V. Cook. See: Travison v. Prison Health Services, USDC, ND FL, Case No: 4:04-CV-00409-RH-WCS.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Travison v. Prison Health Services