FARMINGTON — A Davis County Jail nurse failed to adequately act upon dangerous signs of labored breathing and bluish skin exhibited by an arrestee who soon died of a narcotics overdose, attorneys have alleged in new court documents.
Susan Johnson, of Layton, filed suit in July 2018 against the county over the Dec. 14, 2017, death of her son, Gregory Leigh Hayes. In an amended filing last week, her attorneys added details about how Hayes' medical care was handled.
Johnson is raising Hayes' toddler son and his stepdaughter, who is in grade school.
Police brought Hayes, 33, to the jail the evening of Dec. 13 after an officer determined he was intoxicated. Because of his condition, jail booking personnel placed him in a holding cell rather than completing the booking process and assigning him his own cell.
Nurse Daniel Layton knew that jail policy required Hayes to be assessed by a doctor prior to booking because of the intoxication symptoms, according to the document.
When Layton checked Hayes in the holding cell at 1:03 a.m., the document said, he "was aware of the significant risk to Hayes’ health associated with drug overdose due to Hayes’ drug intoxication, vital signs, heavy breathing, and bluish skin."
Layton took Hayes' pulse and blood pressure, then left, returning for another check at 3 a.m. On that second visit he turned Hayes on his side to assist his breathing.
A corrections officer found Hayes unresponsive at 5:33 a.m. and the man was pronounced dead at 6:13 a.m.
The jail lacks clear policies and protocols on providing basic medical attention to new arrivals, and appears to have violated one that says “inmates displaying signs of drug, alcohol abuse, or withdrawal should not be accepted until they have been seen and cleared by a physician,” the suit said.
“Gregory was caused to endure prolonged pain and suffering leading up to the time of his death, even though his condition could have been diagnosed, treated, and stabilized,” the suit said. “They instead left him in booking to ‘sleep it off’ until the morning.”
The initial lawsuit filing did not mention details of the nursing care. But Johnson's attorneys filed the amended complaint in March after learning details of Layton's involvement during the pretrial discovery process.
The suit said Hayes' constitutional right to adequate medical care while in custody was violated by insufficient policies, failure of personnel to follow policies, and deliberate indifference to the man's wellbeing.
The suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction requiring the county to implement policies providing arrestees with medical attention that complies with national standards.
County attorneys have filed documents denying all allegations. Hayes' death occurred during the administration of Sheriff Todd Richardson, whose elected term ended in January this year.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Susan Poulsen said Tuesday, March 26, that Sheriff Kelly Sparks was out of town at a convention and the sheriff's office had no immediate comment about the latest in the Hayes case.
Hayes' death was one of a string of seven fatalities over a two-year period in the Davis jail.
In response to a record 27 jail deaths in Utah during 2016, the state launched an in-custody death reporting program and began studies into health care offered to detoxifying inmates.