CCS Seeks to Hide Internal Review in Jail Detainee’s Death; $180,000 Settlement
by David Reutter and R. Bailey
Correct Care Solutions, a for-profit company that provides medical services at correctional facilities, contested the release of documents concerning the death of Dino Vann Nixon at the Forsyth County Jail (FCJ) in North Carolina.
Upon being booked into FCJ on drug trafficking charges on July 11, 2013, Nixon informed jail officials that for years prior to his arrest he had been taking several prescription drugs, including Xanax, a benzodiazepine.
Correct Care, however, refused to provide that medication or the Ambien and Vicodin Nixon had been prescribed by an outside doctor. Rather, the company’s healthcare staff said he had to take what they had on hand.
Nixon’s condition deteriorated over the next three weeks as he suffered the effects of cold-turkey benzodiazepine withdrawal. Dr. Alan Raymond Rhoades, Correct Care’s medical director at FCJ, wrote that between July 18 and August 3, 2013, Nixon was doing well; however, his medical records indicated otherwise according to a lawsuit filed by his widow.
“Defendants acted like Mr. Nixon was faking his symptoms,” the suit stated. “Defendants were dead wrong. Mr. Nixon died.”
The complaint alleged he suffered “confusion, lack of sleep, tremor, bizarre and unusual behavior, a lack of alertness and awareness, and many other physical and mental manifestations of withdrawal symptoms during the entirety of his incarceration,” while Correct Care failed to provide adequate medical care.
Nixon’s August 5, 2013 death was caused by “withdrawal from benzodiazepines in the setting of coronary artery disease” and an abnormal enlargement of his heart, the lawsuit said. [See: PLN, April 2018, p.52].
During the litigation, Nixon’s estate requested internal documents from the jail, including any reviews related to his death. Forsyth Superior Court Judge Susan Bray ordered Correct Care to produce its internal documents in May 2017, and the company appealed.
It argued that Nixon’s death review, conducted by its Continuous Quality Review Committee, was intended to improve future performance and that the records were privileged and confidential. Yet at least four members of the committee were directly or indirectly involved in Nixon’s medical care.
“To be clear, it is outrageous to suggest that a doctor accused of negligently causing his patient to die may sit on a peer review committee to judge his own actions related to that patient death,” wrote attorney Ellis Boyle, who represented Nixon’s widow. “The very concept of peer review demands that it is a group of independent ‘peers’ who sit in judgment, not a biased party who has an obvious predilection to be defensive about his or her own actions.”
After Nixon died, Correct Care’s Dr. Rhoades, who had diagnosed Nixon by phone with alcohol withdrawal despite the fact that Nixon had no history of alcohol abuse, said he suspected the cause of death was liver failure – rather than, say, Rhoades’ own medical neglect.
After individually-named Correct Care employees were dismissed from the suit, the company withdrew its appeal of the superior court’s order to produce internal documents. Meanwhile, Forsyth County settled the claims against jail officials in December 2017 for $180,000. See: Nixon v. Forsyth County, Forsyth County Superior Court (NC), Case No. 15 CVS 4605.
In July 2017, county officials approved a $13.2 million, three-year contract renewal with Correct Care Solutions to continue providing medical services at FCJ.
Sources: Winston-Salem Journal, www.mooresvilletribune.com, www.triad-city-beat.com
Related legal case
Nixon v. Forsyth County
|Cite||Forsyth County Superior Court (NC), Case No. 15 CVS 4605|