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Man denied meds in Dallas jail wins lawsuit

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The Associated Press

DALLAS — A jury awarded nearly $900,000 Tuesday to a man left partially paralyzed from a stroke after being denied proper medical care in the Dallas County Jail.

The judgment is thought to be the largest jury verdict for a neglect lawsuit against the troubled Dallas County Jail.

According to the lawsuit, jail officials denied prescription blood pressure medication to plaintiff Stanley Shepherd and then falsified records to indicate he had received the medicine. Nurses at the jail recorded giving Shepherd his medication for at least four days after he had the seizure and was staying at a hospital.

In January 2004, Shepherd was found having a seizure in his jail cell. A nurse took 15 minutes to arrive, and Shepherd was not transferred to a hospital until an hour after the seizure, according to the lawsuit.

He spent 26 days in the hospital and another 100 days in physical therapy. His lawyer told The Dallas Morning News that Shepherd remains in a wheelchair with a loss of function in the left side of his body.

Besides his paralysis, Shepherd was left impotent with impaired speech, hearing and sight and the inability to eat anything but soft foods. He also suffers from depression and has suicidal thoughts, according to the 2005 lawsuit.

The lawsuit also alleged that the Dallas County Jail did not have proper procedures in place to handle medical emergencies or dispense prescribed medication. Inmates suffered because of a "lack of adequate staffing of nurses ... and a serious lack of qualified physicians to provide medical care to inmates."

These failures show "deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Plaintiff and others," the lawsuit said.

The jury's verdict was an indictment of the county jail's health system, Shepherd's lawyer said in a story on The Dallas Morning News' Web site.

"It's a finding that they failed to meet the basic essential needs of an inmate," attorney Don Tittle said.

County Administrator Allen Clemson said Dallas County officials will discuss their options to appeal at a commissioner's meeting next week.

"We definitely disagree with the jury's verdict," Clemson told The Associated Press. "We are disappointed and the county is going to reserve any comment on the case until we talk to the commissioners' court about various options for appeal."

The jury verdict is the latest public rebuke of the Dallas County Jail, which remains under a federal court order to improve conditions for inmates, whom federal officials said are endangered by unsafe conditions and lack proper medical care.

Last year, county officials approved a nearly $1 million settlement with the families of three mentally ill inmates who were denied medication while in the jail. A little more than half of the award went to James Mims, a jail inmate whose psychiatric medications were withheld for two months in 2004.

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