Tennessee Jail Blamed for Seizure-Induced Brain Damage

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CN) – A Tennessee woman claims she suffered dozens of brain-damaging seizures in jail because she was denied anti-seizure medication and guards used a stun gun on her after accusing her of faking it.

Tammy Brawner says in a lawsuit filed Friday in Knoxville federal court that she was in a car accident about 20 years ago that caused a head injury. Her doctor told her she needs to take anti-seizure medication every day.

Brawner was late for a court hearing on drug charges last summer, according to the complaint. Her bond was revoked and she was taken into custody.

She says she was taken to the Scott County Jail, where she provided her prescription medication list at intake, but she never received her medications. She was only given ibuprofen by jail staff, the lawsuit alleges.

Brawner claims she was also on depression and anxiety medications and a drug used to treat addiction before she was booked into jail.

“Plaintiff Tammy Brawner was taking five different medications that affected the function of her brain,” the complaint states. “The abrupt discontinuation of all five of them simultaneously led to an acute alteration in neurotransmitter levels, increased electrical activity, and significantly increased her vulnerability to catastrophic seizures.”

Brawner says she indeed began having seizures because of the medication withdrawal.

“According to descriptions provided [to] Tammy Brawner by other females who were in the jail with her, plaintiff suffered between 30 and 40 seizures while in the jail,” the lawsuit states.

But jail guards accused her of “faking it,” according to the complaint, and they pulled Brawner out of her cell and used a stun gun on her “to make her quit exhibiting the physical manifestations consistent with experiencing a seizure.”

“From June 29, 2016 until July 7, 2016, Tammy Brawner experienced multiple seizures and the individual defendants during that time afforded her no medical care whatsoever, let alone adequate medical care for the serious and emergent medical need of a seizure,” the lawsuit states.

Brawner says she was finally taken to the hospital in LaFollete, Tenn., even suffering three seizures on her way there.

However, after she was stabilized, she was returned to the Scott County Jail where she suffered more seizures, according to the complaint. Brawner says the anti-convulsant drug she was prescribed at the hospital wasn’t enough to stop them.

“The failure of the jail personnel to advise the emergency department at the hospital that plaintiff had not received any of [her] medications since her incarceration was a significant contributing factor to her subsequent seizures and resulting brain damage,” the lawsuit states.

Brawner was taken back to the LaFollette hospital a week after her first stay because the seizures hadn’t stopped, but her “medical condition was so deteriorated” that she had to be flown to Physicians Regional Medical Center in Knoxville, according to the lawsuit.

“Physicians Regional Medical Center personnel were able to ultimately stabilize plaintiff Tammy Brawner but not before she suffered permanent and debilitating injuries, including swelling of her brain, brain damage, cognitive difficulties, memory loss and neurological damage,” the complaint states.

Brawner and her husband Greg sued Scott County, six jail guards, Advanced Correctional Healthcare and two nurses, alleging failure to provide adequate medical care, excessive force and negligence.

The Brawners seek $2.5 million and are represented by Darren Berg with Butler, Vines and Babb in Knoxville.

Scott County Sheriff Ronnie Phillips did not immediately respond Tuesday to an email requesting comment.

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