FARMINGTON — A medical contractor serving as an expert witness in two Davis County jail death lawsuits is himself still embroiled in a federal suit that accuses him of responsibility in the death of a Duchesne County inmate who was withdrawing from heroin.
U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball in Salt Lake City recently refused to grant Dr. Kennon Tubbs qualified immunity from liability for civil damages in the Dec. 1, 2016, death of Madison Jensen, 21, who died of dehydration four days after she was booked into the Duchesne County Jail.
Meanwhile, Tubbs is an expert witness for Davis County in its defense against two lawsuits filed over the 2016 death of Heather Miller and the death a year later of Gregory Hayes.
In that role, Tubbs absolved Davis jail nurses of responsibility for the deaths of Miller, who died of internal bleeding after falling off a bunk, and Hayes, who died of a drug overdose while in a booking area holding cell.
Despite Tubbs’ testimony, U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish ruled last fall that a Davis jail nurse was liable for being deliberately indifferent to Miller’s medical care. The court has not yet ruled in the Hayes case.
Tubbs also vouched for the adequacy of the Davis jail’s medical policies and procedures. Ironically, his own policies and procedures in the Duchesne case are under fire from the attorneys representing Jensen’s family.
As the contract medical provider for the Duchesne jail, Tubbs is paid $4,200 a month for the service, according to court records. He contracts similar services for the Utah, Summit, Tooele, Juab and Wasatch county jails and four jails in Wyoming.
Kimball said Tubbs could not be granted immunity because questions remain about whether he provided adequate training for Duchesne jail nurse Jana Clyde, who also is a defendant in the Jensen case.
Kimball also refused to grant immunity to Clyde, a county employee, but he did grant dismissal of the civil claims against all other defendants, including Duchesne jail supervisors and corrections deputies.
“A genuine issue exists as to whether Tubbs was deliberately indifferent to the risk of constitutional injuries like Madison’s by not establishing procedures or providing training on what nurse Clyde should have done in a case like Madison’s,” Kimball’s Jan. 21 decision said.
“There is no evidence regarding nurse Clyde’s specific training,” the judge wrote. “There were no written procedures, policies, or training materials. ... There is some question as to whether Dr. Tubbs’ failure to have any kind of training materials or written policies for nurse Clyde to follow knowingly created a substantial risk of constitutional injury.”
In his motion asking for the case against him to be dismissed, Tubbs had said Clyde knew she should contact Tubbs — or his subcontractor physician assistant who did most of the doctor care at the Duchesne jail — if a withdrawing inmate was seen violently vomiting over a 12-hour period.
Tubbs typically did not visit the jail unless he was filling in for the physician assistant, three to four times a year, according to court records.
Tubbs’ contract called for him to “provide training, instruction, support, and a supervisory role of nursing staff on how to appropriately handle triage, sick call, medical protocols, and health care complaints/grievances.”
In her court deposition, Clyde said that she was not given a jail policies and procedures manual at any time prior to Jensen’s death and she did not receive any training from any other defendant on the jail’s medical policies and procedures.
A state medical examiner’s report said Jensen died of cardiac arrhythmia due to dehydration from opiate withdrawal. Jensen weighed 112 pounds at death, having lost 17 pounds during her four-day jail stay.
On Monday, attorneys for Tubbs and Clyde appealed Kimball’s decision to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
Tubbs declined to comment.