FARMINGTON — Davis County hired three expert witnesses to counter claims in a civil lawsuit that jail personnel were deliberately indifferent to the medical care of a man who died of a drug overdose while awaiting booking.
Susan Johnson, of Layton, is suing the county over the Dec. 14, 2017, death of her son, Gregory Leigh Hayes, 33. Her 2018 suit against the county and the Sheriff at the time, Todd Richardson, alleges the jail failed to adequately evaluate and monitor Hayes’ medical condition.
Hayes, who had a history of drug addiction, was brought to the jail on the evening of Dec. 13 after a police 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.
In documents filed in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court Friday, attorneys representing the county identified expert witnesses they have retained: Dr. Kennon Tubbs, who provides medical care in 10 Utah and Wyoming county jails; Glen R. Hanson, a toxicology expert; and C. Donald Leach II, a consultant in jails’ handling of people under the influence of drugs.
Tubbs will testify about the standard of care for people who may be under the influence of drugs or medication in a jail setting, and specifically about the monitoring and treatment of Hayes, the defense said.
Hanson, who has a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Utah, is expected to testify about the substances Hayes consumed and their effects on the man.
The jail’s policies and procedures governing the handling of incoming inmates under the influence will be addressed by Leach, the county documents said. He also will testify about Hayes’ admission to the jail that night.
In November, Johnson’s attorneys disclosed to the court that they have hired two expert witnesses.
Dr. Ken Starr, a California authority on emergency rooms, drug abuse recovery and jail medical services, will testify about Hayes’ “survivability had appropriate precautions been taken,” according to the documents.
Tom Green, a former chief deputy in the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office in Nevada, is the second expert witness hired by Johnson’s attorneys.
Green will testify, they said, about standard practices for safely admitting and monitoring arrestees who are suspected of being under the influence of illegal narcotics or medication.
Starr and Tubbs both also served as expert witnesses in a civil suit over the death of Heather Miller, 28, who fell off a Davis jail bunk and died Dec. 21, 2016.
A federal judge in September ruled a jail nurse was deliberately indifferent to Miller’s care. Davis County is appealing that ruing to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
In 2019, the new county sheriff, Kelly Sparks, and his staff have instituted a series of programs designed to improve medical and mental health care for inmates.