Sheriff Can't Dismiss Brain Damage Case

ORLANDO (CN) - A Florida sheriff's department is not off the hook for an inmate's brain damage from untreated meningitis, a federal judge ruled.
     Nam Dang, through a power of attorney, sued the Seminole County Sheriff's Office and jail medical staff, saying he has permanent brain damage because his meningitis went untreated during the 29 days he was in custody.
     Dang was arrested in January 2012 and his mother told arresting officers that he was sick, according to the ruling.
     He saw a nurse on his fourth day in jail for head and neck pain, and a doctor a few days later, who said Dang was just running a fever. His symptoms became worse and he was taken to a hospital, where he was diagnosed with meningitis.
     "However, the damage had been done, and the plaintiff is now left with permanent impairment," the ruling states.
     Five nurse defendants said the claims against them should be thrown out because they did not act with deliberate indifference.
     The Sheriff's Office said, "the plaintiff has failed to assert a policy, custom or practice that led to the alleged harm and that there was no underlying constitutional violation."
     But U.S. District Judge Gregory Presnell denied the motions to dismiss on Aug. 6, finding there is an obvious need for better personnel training, citing the Supreme Court ruling in City of Canton, Ohio vs. Harris.
     "It is alleged that the lack of suitable training and staffing of medical personnel at the jail was the result of deliberate cost-cutting efforts by the Sheriff," Presnell wrote. "Accordingly, the allegations of the amended complaint are sufficient to sustain a § 1983 [civil rights] claim against the Sheriff."
     Presnell ruled that the nurses are not cleared because their conduct meets legal standards for deliberate indifference to an inmate's risk of harm.
     "Since meningitis is a condition that must be aggressively treated as soon as possible, the delay in seeking proper treatment for plaintiff satisfies the casual connection prong of deliberate indifference claim," the judge wrote.