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WA City Liable for Jail Doctor's Negligence

IN 1975, Michael Shea, a prisoner in the Spokane County Jail in Spokane,
Washington repeatedly complained of severe back pain. Even though he was in
jail for drunk driving after being in an auto accident, the jail physician
only treated Shea for alcohol withdrawal. He eventually collapsed and
suffered partial permanent paralysis as a result of a spinal injury
sustained in the wreck. He brought a negligence action in state court in
which the City's argument that it wasn't responsible for the doctor's
negligence was rejected. A jury ruled for Shea and awarded him $275,000 in
damages, and the City appealed.

On appeal, Division 3 of the state Court of Appeals found the City
responsible for the jail physician's negligence and dismissed the appeal.
The State Supreme Court affirmed that dismissal. See: Shea v. City of
Spokane, 90 Wn. 2d 43; 578 P.2d 42 (1978).

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Related legal case

Shea v. City of Spokane

Shea v. City of Spokane, 90 Wash. 2d 43, 578 P.2d 42 (Wa. 05/04/1978)


[2] No. 45019

[3] 578 P.2d 42; 90 Wash. 2d 43

[4] May 4, 1978


[6] Frank Hayes Johnson and MacGillivray, Jones, Clarke, Schiffner & Johnson, for petitioner.

[7] Terry W. Martin, Dellwo, Rudolf & Schroeder, Charles S. Dorn, and Dorn, Reynolds & Gustafson, for respondent.

[8] En Banc.

[9] Author: Per Curiam

[90 Wash2d Page 44]

[10] The Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment in favor of the plaintiff at 17 Wash. App. 236, 562 P.2d 264 (1977).

[11] We granted review on two issues: (1) whether a municipal corporation could delegate its duty to provide health care to a jail inmate and (2) whether the jury instructions properly defined the standard of care imposed upon the jail physician.

[12] We have reviewed the record, the briefs, the opinion of the Court of Appeals and heard excellent oral argument.

[13] We agree with the analysis, rationale and conclusion of the Court of Appeals. Judge Green's opinion is well reasoned. We adopt it and affirm the Court of Appeals.

[14] Disposition

[15] The court adopts the analysis, rationale, and conclusion of the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the judgment.