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Settlement in Lawsuit Alleging Kentucky Jail Allowed Prisoner to Die From Untreated Diabetes

A confidential settlement was reached on July 30, 2013 in a lawsuit stemming from the death of a pre-trial detainee from untreated diabetes while held at Kentucky’s Whitley County Detention Center (WCDC).

Ronald S. Lawson, 26, was booked into WCDC on July 24, 2010. His family advised jail personnel upon his entry that he had a history of type I diabetes, and his father gave syringes and insulin products to WCDC officials for his treatment.

Medical care at WCDC is provided by Health Professions LTD. At WCDC, there was not “an adequate monitoring system in place to monitor and assess” Lawson’s medical needs. Over a three day period, his blood glucose levels ran in a dangerously high range of 300-481. Deterioration of his condition led to seizures.

 “During these diabetic seizures, Mr. Lawson would frequently thrash about his cell hitting his legs, arms, and head against metal and concrete fixtures,” states the lawsuit. Rather than provide proper care, Lawson “was strapped to a chair in the detox cell” so he would not hurt himself.

Guards blamed “Lawson for having the episodes or ‘faking’ or ‘trying to get out of jail to go to the hospital.’” There is no record that he was examined by WCDC medical personnel.

With his situation becoming dire, a WCDC employee, who had no experience or training in the administration of insulin, sought another pre-trail detainee’s advice before administering insulin to Lawson. Shortly thereafter, Lawson was taken to a local hospital where he died. An autopsy concluded death was caused by diabetes mellitus and found a vitreous glucose level of 663.

Lawson’s estate was represented by attorney Paul K. Croley, II. Because Lawson’s minor children were plaintiffs, the settlement was confidential. See: Lawson v. Whitley County, Kentucky, USDC, E.D. Kentucky, Case No. 6:10-CV-354.

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Related legal case

Lawson v. Whitley County, Kentucky