Natrona County, Nurse Seek Partial Dismissal of Jail Death Lawsuit
Natrona County wants district court to dismiss part of a family's lawsuit filed seeking $1 million in damages over the suicide of their son Larry Turner Jr. in the jail in 2012.
The Turner family has not followed the legal procedures to present their malpractice allegations against the jail nurse for her negligence, attorney Hampton O'Neill told Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey on Friday.
"The gist of the complaint against nurse (Karen) Fuller is her failure to provide adequate health care," said O'Neill, who was hired to represent the county in this case.
Fuller is a nurse, not a peace officer working for the jail, and any legal action against her must start with Wyoming Medical Review Panel Act of 2005, he said.
The county has not waived this requirement, so this part of the Turner family's lawsuit filed in must be dismissed, O'Neill said.
Turner, 32, an aspiring rapper, was charged with vehicular homicide after a car crash that killed a friend of his in October 2011.
On March 24, 2012, he was arrested for violating probation, was booked into the jail, went through the intake process, was placed in the general inmate population, and was last seen at 8:07 p.m. that night. No jail officials saw him until the following afternoon. By then, he had written a suicide note on the table in his cell and was found dead from a drug overdose, according to court records.
In their civil rights and negligence lawsuit filed in April, Turner’s family and the mother of his daughter are seeking $1 million in damages against the county, the sheriff’s office, Fuller and others for the negligent behavior that lead to his death.
Many of the allegations hinge on whether Fuller adequately processed him during the inmate intake. They claim Fuller did a poor job of evaluating Turner’s history of alcohol and drug use history, medical history, social stress experiences, criminal history, history of suicidal behavior, behavioral symptoms, signs of severe mental illness, and other matters.
Fuller's attorney, Keith Dodson, echoed O'Neill's argument and said it isn't enough to just see she is works at the jail. "You have to look beyond mere labels and look at the substance."
But the Turner family's attorney, Tim Kingston of Cheyenne, said the lawsuit's allegations deal with the jail's systemic failures to follow its own policies and procedures for admitting an inmate.
It doesn't matter whether Fuller was a nurse or a peace officer, Kingston said. "This negligence lead to his death."
At the end of the hearing, Judge Forgey said he will take the motion to dismiss under advisement and issue a ruling later.
After the hearing, O'Neill and Kingston said the civil rights violations alleged in the lawsuit will remain regardless of Forgey's decision.